Most people have likely heard of being right-brained or left-brained. Those who are right-brained are supposedly more creative, spontaneous and subjective, while those who are left-brained are more logical, detail-oriented and analytic. This theory has been taught in textbooks for years, but new research from University of Utah neuroscientists suggests there is no evidence of some people being right- or left-brained.
Culture for years has led to the assumption that people use their right or left brain more than the other, which defines their personalities. However, this two-year study has identified specific networks in the left and right brain that process lateralized functions. Lateralization of brain function means certain mental processes are mainly specialized to one of the brain’s left or right hemispheres.
“It’s kind of crazy to hear that this is no longer thought to be true,” said Weber State University psychology major Hannah Eaton. “It’s what I’ve been taught for so long. I remember taking quizzes in school about whether we were right- or left-brained. However, it does kind of make sense, because I always ended up being half right-brained and half left-brained.”
The study consisted of researchers evaluating resting brain scans of 1,011 people between the ages of 7 and 29. They studied functional lateralization of the brain by studying thousands of brain regions. They found there is no relationship between people having a preference for using their right or left brain network more often than the other.
The brain scans for those studied came from the International Neuroimaging Data-Sharing Initiative. The scans were taken during a functional connectivity MRI analysis. This means participants were lying in a scanner for 5-10 minutes while their resting brain activity was analyzed.
Viewing the brain activity allowed scientists to correlate the activity in one region with another. The brain was broken into 7,000 regions. The researchers then determined which of these regions were more lateralized. They looked for connections and combinations of the brain regions. They then added up the number of connections for each region of the brain that was left- or right-lateralized. Through this, they discovered patterns of right and left lateralization. The study reveals that if someone has a connection that is strongly left-lateralized, it relates to another strongly lateralized connection.
While it is still true that some brain functions do occur in one side or the other, people do not tend to have a stronger left or right side of the brain network.
Robin Neal, a WSU student and U.S. Army mental health specialist, said that understanding this concept is important.
“While maybe it’s true that people do not have a stronger right or left (side) of the brain, understanding that there is right and left hemispheres and that they do different things is still a crucial element in helping us to understand the human brain and how it works,” Neal said.
U of U pre-med student Kenzi Yocus said she has been hearing of a lot of research at her school.
“I love how much research is going on at the U, and it doesn’t surprise me that another well-known hypothesis originated from here,” she said.