By Luis S. R. Vas October 2007 Enough has been said about right and left brain dominance. here are ways of putting the brain together again Cognitive Style TestThe quiz below only tests your cognitive style, not your abilities.Get a blank sheet of lined paper. Every time you read a description or characteristic that applies to you, write down its number on the blank sheet of paper. There is no certain number of characteristics you must choose. After you are done, check the key below the test. Next to every number on your paper, write whether it was a L or an R. Count up the number of L’s and R’s. Whichever number is higher represents your dominance. If the numbers are close, that means you use both sides of your brain equally. 1 – I constantly look at a clock or wear a watch 2 – I keep a journal or diary of my thoughts 3 – I believe there is either a right or wrong way to do everything 4 – I find it hard to follow directions precisely 5 – The expression “Life is just a bowl of cherries” makes no sense to me 6 – I frequently change my plans and find that sticking to a schedule is boring 7 – I think it’s easier to draw a map than tell someone how to get somewhere 8 – To find a lost item, I try to picture it in my head where I last saw it 9 – I frequently let my emotions guide me 10- I learn maths with ease 11- I’d read the directions before assembling something 12- People tell me I am always late getting places 13- People have told me that I’m psychic 14- I need to set goals for myself to keep me on track 15- When somebody asks me a question, I turn my head to the left 16- If I have a tough decision to make, I write down the pros and the cons 17- I’d probably make a good detective 18- I learn music with ease 19- To solve a problem, I think of similar problems I have solved in the past20- I use a lot of gestures 21- If someone asks me a question, I turn my head to the right 22- I believe there are two ways to look at almost everything 23- I have the ability to tell if people are lying or guilty of something, just by looking at them 24- I keep a “to do” list 25- I am able to thoroughly explain my opinions in words 26- In a debate, I am objective and look at the facts before forming an opinion 27- I’ve considered becoming a poet, a politician, an architect, or a dancer 28- I always lose track of time 29- When trying to remember a name I forgot, I’d recite the alphabet until I remembered it 30- I like to draw 31- When I’m confused, I usually go with my gut instinct 32- I have considered becoming a lawyer, journalist, or doctor Result : 1 L 2 L 3 L 4 R 5 L 6 R 7 R 8 L 9 R 10 L 11 L 12 R 13 R 14 L 15 R 16 L 17 L 18 R 19 R 20 R 21 L 22 R 23 R 24 L 25 L 26 L 27 R 28 R 29 L 30 R 31 R 32 L If the test shows you’re right brain dominant, your possible strengths are: You see unusual possibilities. You don’t quit You see the “big picture” quicker than most Possible weaknesses: Staying focussed Finishing things Managing time Confidence that your right brain skills are valuable If the test shows you’re left-brain dominant, your possible strengths are: Planning Teaching others Possible things to work on:Letting go of perfectionism “The simple geography of right brain/left brain has made it very appealing – to the point that there is almost a hemispheric racism. While the right/left brain notation has some value in indicating that not all thinking is linear and symbolic the matter has been exaggerated to the point that it is dangerous and limiting and doing great harm to the cause of creativity.”- Edward de Bono in Serious Creativity Have you ever filled out a questionnaire to work out whether you’re a ‘left brain’ (verbal, mathematical, analytical), ‘right brain’ (visual, artistic), or a bilateral person? Can the distinction really be made? “When someone says they are right or left-brain, it’s really just a metaphor for a cognitive style,” says neuropsychologist Associate Professor Michael Saling from Australia. “Without a doubt the popular left and right division of the brain is an over-simplification. For example, research is showing that musical, artistic and intuitive thinking can’t be thought of as strictly lateralised, or exclusively of the right hemisphere.” Saling says we know with confidence that basic language processes are predominantly controlled by the left hemisphere, and spatial cognition like navigation or face recognition are coordinated by the right hemisphere. But when it comes to the question of ability, both hemispheres work in concert with each other. “Every single cognitive function has right hemisphere and left hemisphere components. To avoid competition between the two halves of the brain there is a division of labour between the left and the right,” says Saling. In his book, Half A Brain is Enough: The Story of Nico, Spanish cognitive psychologist, Antonio M Battro recounts the moving story of a young boy who underwent a hemispherectomy to remove much of the right half of his brain. He recovered well from the procedure. But how can a person be a person with an entire half of the person’s brain missing? As psychologist Antonio Battro provocatively puts it, “How can half a brain sustain a full mind? Do we really need so many neurons and so many synapses to be human?” Nico suffered from life-threatening epilepsy, and his hemispherectomy was to remove the half of his brain tormented by seizure-inducing electrical storms. He apparently now lives epilepsy-free, has plenty of friends, and with the help of a computer (his “intellectual prosthesis”) he is powering through school. Nico has a high IQ, and he possesses exceptional language skills for his age. Speech and language are understood to be primarily capacities of the left brain – so whether the fact that he only has a left brain is a factor in that is an interesting but unanswered possibility. Outwardly, the only sign that Nico has half a brain is a limp, and difficulty with movement of his left side. He also has a condition described as left hemianopia, which means signals entering the retina of his left eye aren’t processed by his brain, and so he has no “left visual field”. That is because all images entering our left eye are processed by the right side of our brain (as are all the movements of the left side of our body, and vice versa), which in Nico’s case is missing. An adult undergoing the same procedure would have fared very differently, suggests Battro. A four-year-old’s network of brain cells (neurons) are plastic and malleable in a way that the connections between the 100 billion neurons in our own cortex (the outer layer of our brain) aren’t. The neurons in the left side of Nico’s brain effectively rewired themselves to each other to take over many of the functions of his amputated right hemisphere. But Battro may be already out of date. More recent research shows that aged adults too can restructure their brains. Stroke patients who lost the use of their limbs on one side of their body recovered their use by having their other limbs immobilised. Having no other choice, their brains reconnected to the useless limbs and reused them! “In a neurophysiological sense, Nico had been forced to develop a new brain, a new hemisphere, in his first three years of life,” writes Battro. “My friend Nico is a normal child. Only his brain images remind (me) of his brain condition…he has a well-kept secret in his skull.” Do two halves make a whole?If a child like Nico can function beautifully with only half the grey matter, then is the dichotomy made between the two hemispheres of the brain little more than popular mythology? Not entirely. It’s long been understood that certain functions in the brain are lateralised to the left and right hemispheres (which constantly communicate with each other via a thick bridge of nerve fibres called the corpus callosum). They may look like anatomical mirror images of each other at a macro level, but they receive and process different sorts of incoming sensory information. Neurologist Roger Sperry won a Nobel Prize for demonstrating that the right and left hemispheres play distinct but complementary roles in adult brains. He looked at patients who had had a callosotomy – where the two hemispheres of the brain are separated by severing the corpus callosum. Their brain is effectively ‘split’ in two. This procedure, another type of hemispherectomy, is sometimes performed on people with severe epilepsy, to stop the transmission of seizures between the left and right halves. The split brain patients sat directly in front of a screen onto which, in essence, pictures or words were flashed on either side so that they were only processed by one half of the patients’ brain. When a word was flashed on the left hand side, the patients couldn’t say what they’d seen because their non-verbal right hemisphere was left to make sense of the word alone, without the help of its verbal left companion. However, if they were asked to pick up an object behind a screen in front of them with their left hand related to what was on the screen, they picked up the correct object. This indicated that their right brain had in fact “seen” the object and directed their left hand correctly – it just couldn’t help them say what they’d seen. Wellbeing, and HemispheresOther areas where the different hemispheres play specific roles are still being uncovered, but recent studies suggest that the left brain may play a part in human happiness and the immune system. A research team l
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