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Brain Hemispheres, Brain Lateralization


[5]The fore-brain is made of two cerebral hemispheres, left and right. The hemispheres are almost identical in shape, yet they function differently. The inputs from our right sensory organs are usually transferred to the left hemisphere, and vice versa. It seems that for the majority of people who are right handed, the left hemisphere is specialized to perform common tasks. For a long time, it was believed that the left hemisphere was doing the actual work, while the right hemisphere remained mostly dormant for ordinary people.

The right hemisphere has been called the “subordinate” or “minor” hemisphere, and some have even referred to it as “illiterate” and “mentally retarded.” However recently it is understood that each of the hemispheres has its own functions. Each uses its own percepts, mental images, and associations. Each brain half, in other words, appears to have its own distinct cognitive domain with its own private perceptual, learning, and memory experiences, all of which are seemingly unaware of corresponding events in the other hemisphere. As such, they resemble the two aspects of physical reality—classical and quantum mechanical.
The classical and quantum levels of reality are seemingly alien to each other as well, in that they sketch different pictures from the same objective reality. One might say that classical physics and quantum physics portray two different perceptions of the same realm. In 1981, Roger W. Sperry, in his Nobel lecture declared:

“Left and right hemispheres are characterized by inbuilt, qualitatively different and mutually antagonistic modes of cognitive processing, the left being basically analytic and sequential, the right spatial and synthetic. A rationale was added for the evolution of cerebral asymmetry based on the functional advantages of having the two cognitive modes develop in separate hemispheres in order to minimize mutual interference." [6]

Despite their exclusive cognitive roles, the functions of the two hemispheres are somehow mutual and complement each other. In isolated experiments, the same individual can be observed to employ one of two distinct mental strategies, much as if we are dealing with two different people, depending on whether the left or right hemisphere is in use. However, in the normal state, the two hemispheres appear to work closely together as a unit; one does not remain “switched on” while the other idles. [7]

We usually distinguish the hemispheres by the traits they are linked to—the head versus the heart, thoughts versus feelings, mind versus instinct, sensing versus intuition, and so on. Below, I will elaborate on these two different mental approaches.

Lateralization of brain functions is not clear cut, and the borderlines overlap. Many times right brain, or its different locations, perform or participate in functions that are normally attributed to the left hemisphere. Please note that I apply idealization and simplistic views while describing hemispheric functions. In reality brain tasks are complex undertakings and are carried out by a collaboration of the two hemispheres. However, in the following lines, I take direct reflection of received data as the perception of the right brain whereas decoding and manipulation of information to create appropriate perception as product of the left brain. This simplistic view should not invalidate the main argument in this article.

Roger W. Sperry, Nobel Lecture, 8 December 1981. 
Roger W. Sperry, Nobel Lecture, 8 December 1981. 
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