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What is Brain Lateralization?

By Donn Saylor
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Brain lateralization is the idea that the left and right sides of the brain carry out and regulate a variety of different functions and behaviors. Each of the two hemispheres is responsible for a distinct set of duties in brain lateralization; the left side handles analytical, logical, and verbal thought processes while the right oversees more sensitive processes, like feelings, intuition, and sensory matters. The duties of the two hemispheres are reversed in left-handed individuals. The thought that the two hemispheres manage these brain functions and behaviors for the overall operation of the individual and can be utilized as a situation demands is the theory behind brain lateralization.

On a biological level, the brain is separated into its left and right sides by the corpus callosum, a cluster of neural fibers situated along the longitudinal fissure. The corpus callosum contains more than 200 fibers that relay messages back and forth between the two hemispheres, maintaining communication that ensures healthy brain functioning. The left and right sides of the brain are physically identical, and each side resembles a mirror image of the other. In the practice of brain mapping, neurology experts in the 1940s discovered that one hemisphere of the brain, when stimulated with electrical current, evoked muscle reaction in the opposite side of the body; thus it was deduced that the left brain controls the right side of the body and the right brain controls the left.

Despite their striking physical likeness, each hemisphere of the brain possesses its own unique responsibilities. The left side specializes in the facts: time management, rationality, discipline, rules, structure, goal setting, productivity, reasoning, and intellect are all matters handled by the left brain. This hemisphere is also responsible for understanding mathematics; science; technology; and words, be they written, spoken, or heard.

The right side of the brain focuses on functions considered to be nonverbal. This is the hemisphere that deals in art, music, and creativity. The right side handles emotions, daydreaming, color, spontaneity, sense of humor, and anything relating to the five senses. Motor skills are also managed by the right hemisphere.

Researchers encourage the development of each side of the brain, which results in more comprehensive brain lateralization. Typically, as children, humans cultivate one side more than the other, and in many cases, end up becoming doubtful toward or less comfortable with the less-cultivated side of the brain. Experts, however, support the idea that both sides should be consciously developed since many common life situations clearly call for the duties of one side of the brain over the other. A healthier overall lateralization of the brain can make dealing with life's ups and downs far less stressful.

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Discussion Comments
By FlwerChild — On Mar 03, 2014

Sometimes I think the topic of "right brain" vs. "left brain" sounds like an oversimplified explanation. Are our brain functions, such as speech, only handled by one side of the brain or are other parts of the brain involved as well?

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