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What is the theory of "brain lateralization?"
Lateralization is the idea that the two halves of the brain's cerebral cortex -- left and right -- execute different functions. The lateralization theory -- developed by Nobel-prize-winners Roger Sperry and Robert Ornstein -- helps us to understand our behavior, our personality, our creativity, and our ability to use the proper mode of thinking when performing particular tasks. (The cerebral cortex is a part of the brain that exists only in humans and higher mammals, to manage our sophisticated intellect.)
This is a bundle of more than 200 million nerve fibers which transmit data from one hemisphere to the other so that the two halves can communicate. Although this nerve connection would seem to be vital, it is severed in a surgical procedure for some people who have epilepsy. The corpus collosum is up to 40 percent larger in women than it is in men.
(The following descriptions apply to right-handed people; for left-handed people, this information is reversed; for example, it is the right hemisphere which processes analytical thought.)
This is the use of the proper hemisphere for the task which we are doing. For example, when we are playing a friendly game of softball (a right-hemisphere activity), we would lose the essence of the game -- the fun -- if we were overly apprehensive regarding left-hemisphere matters such as rules and discipline. And when we are balancing our checkbook (a left-hemisphere activity), we don't want to be distracted by the right hemisphere's fascination with creativity and emotions. In every task, one hemisphere is dominant, but the other hemisphere participates to some extent; for example, we do have rules during the softball game, and we can feel happy when we notice that our bills are not as costly this month. When we understand lateralization, we become more efficient: we can consciously allow and emphasize the correct hemisphere, knowing that the sense-oriented right hemisphere is a better softball player, and the analytical left hemisphere is better in math. We also benefit from knowing which hemisphere to use during a particular stage of a task; for example, during problem-solving, we use the left hemisphere for the information-gathering stage, but we use the right-hemisphere during brainstorming and incubation of the ideas.
During childhood, we develop "brain dominance" -- the inclination to act and think in the mode of either the left or right hemisphere. The decision is affected by our genetics, childhood experiences, and family environment. The dominance is not total; whether we are "right-brained" or "left-brained," we permit the other hemisphere to lead occasionally.
If we generally use our left hemisphere, we might be annoyed by our right hemisphere as though it were an undisciplined child; contrarily, a right-hemisphere person might consider his or her left hemisphere to be a spoil-sport. These same attitudes might be projected onto other people. For example, if we favor the right hemisphere, but our co-workers are oriented toward their left hemisphere, we are likely to judge them as boring and rigid; if we favor the left hemisphere, we probably view our right-hemisphere co-workers as unreliable and disorganized. But both types of people can be effective if permitted to work in their own way, as some employers have discovered.
This is necessary because, as stated previously, some tasks require the left hemisphere primarily, and others predominantly call on the right hemisphere. Our brain dominance stays the same -- a right-hemisphere person does not change into a left-hemisphere person -- but we can develop the skills of the other half, so that that half will be more effective when we need to use it. We can enhance our non-dominant hemisphere in the following ways:
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New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy