The human brain is a
highly intricate organ that has evolved over a long period of time, and much of
that evolution has been dedicated to helping us make better, more complex decisions
so that we can stay alive. In fact,
although it only makes up 2% of our total body weight, it consumes over 20% of
the oxygen we breathe and 20% of the calories we burn every day!
Now, imagine looking down through the top of your head into the cortex of your brain. What do you think you will see? You would see that it is made up of two halves called hemispheres: one on the left (the left brain) and one on the right (the right brain).
It was neurobiologist Dr Roger Sperry who first discovered that our brains were divided into two roughly equal hemispheres, and that the left-brain and the right-brain are responsible for different things: such as how your left-brain is responsible for most of the functions on the right half of your body, and that the reverse is true for your right-brain. This discovery caused him – along with Dr David Hunter Hubel and Dr Torsten Nils Wiesel – to be awarded with a Nobel Prize in 1981.
However, popular science also holds that both hemispheres are also responsible for different types of thought patterns. The left, it is said, is responsible for logical and analytical thinking, whereas the right is mostly reserved for creative thinking and intuitive reasoning. Therefore, someone who is logical and objective is often said to be left-brain dominant, whereas someone who is more free-spirited or thoughtful is thought of as being right-brain dominant.
In neuroscience, however, researchers tend to avoid using these terms as the brain’s functions are simply too complex to be so neatly labelled and categorized. While there is some merit to the idea that a person’s personality can lean “leftwards”, towards objective and logical thought, or “rightwards”, towards introspective and creative meditation, studies have shown that both hemispheres of the brain are actively engaged when it comes to thinking and learning of all types. This indicates that such a divide is not so much due to left- or right-brain dominance but is rather a matter of an individual’s personality, learning habits, behavioural choices and so on.
As the seat of the mind and the main driver of all our bodily functions, it is no exaggeration to say that the brain is the most important organ in our body. It is an amazing organ, and every day, thanks to ongoing research efforts in neuroscience and neurobiology, we are constantly learning more about the brain and, therefore, by extension, ourselves as human beings.
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