The brain has two sides that look very similar: a left brain and a right brain, also called the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere.
However, the left brain and the right brain have a big difference in how they process information. Despite their contrasting styles, the two halves of your brain do not function independently of each other.
The human brain is a complex organ of about 1.5 kg and 80 billion neurons.
Your brain is divided into two halves, or hemispheres. In each half, particular regions control certain functions.
Different parts of your brain are connected by nerve fibers. If a brain injury severed the connection between the sides, you could still function. However, the lack of integration of information would lead to a certain handicap.
As scientists continue to map the brain, we are gaining more information about the parts that control necessary functions. This information is critical to advancing research into brain disease and injury and how to recover from it.
The left-brain/right-brain theory
According to the theory, people are either left-brained or right-brained, meaning one side of their brain is dominant.
If you are mostly analytical and methodical in your thinking, you are said to be left-brained. If you tend to be more creative or artistic, you are thought to be right-brained.
This theory is based on the fact that the two hemispheres of the brain work differently. This first emerged in the 1960s, thanks to the research of biologist and Nobel Prize winner Roger Sperry.
The left brain is more verbal, analytical and orderly than the right brain. It is sometimes called the digital brain. It is useful for things such as reading, writing and calculations.
According to Sperry’s research, the left brain is connected to:
- linear thinking
- thinking through words
The right brain is more visual and intuitive. It is sometimes called the analog brain. He has a more creative and less organized way of thinking.
Sperry’s dated research suggests that the right brain is also connected to:
- holistic thinking
- non-verbal cues
- visualization of feelings
We know that both sides of our brain are different, but does that necessarily mean we have a dominant brain just like we have a dominant hand?
A team of neuroscientists set out to test this hypothesis. After analysis, they found no evidence that this theory is correct. Magnetic resonance imaging of a thousand participants revealed that the human brain doesn’t actually favor one side over the other. The networks on one side are generally not stronger than the networks on the other side.
The two hemispheres are bound together by bundles of nerve fibers, creating an information highway. Although the two sides work differently, they work together and complement each other. You don’t use only one side of your brain at a time.
Whether you are performing a logical or creative function, you receive information from both sides of your brain. For example, the left brain is credited with language, but the right brain helps you understand context and tone. The left brain handles math equations, but the right brain helps with comparisons and rough estimates.
General personality traits, individual preferences or learning style do not translate into the notion that you are left or right brained.
Yet, it is a fact that the two sides of your brain are different and certain areas of your brain have specialties. The exact areas of certain functions may vary a bit from person to person.
Tips to keep your brain fit
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, keeping your brain active can help increase vitality and possibly generate new neurons (this is neurogenesis).
They also suggest that a lack of mental stimulation may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease .
In addition to thinking exercises, your brain benefits from a good physical workout. Just 120 minutes of aerobic exercise per week can help improve learning and verbal memory.
Avoid junk food and make sure you get all the essential nutrients you need through diet or supplements. And, of course, aim for a full night’s sleep every night.
Tips for boosting creativity
If you’re trying to nurture your creative side, here are some ways to get started:
Take up a creative hobby, like playing an instrument, drawing, or telling stories. A relaxing hobby can help your mind wander to new places. Take a trip to a place you’ve never been. Take a course on a topic you haven’t studied before.
Even something as creative as music takes time, patience and practice. The more you practice a new activity, the more your brain adapts to new information.
Whether you’re working on a complicated algebraic equation or painting an abstract piece of art, both sides of your brain are actively participating and contributing.
A normal, healthy brain is capable of lifelong learning and has unlimited creativity.