“Left-Brained” or “Right-Brained”? It’s Not That Simple After All

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Graphic of a stick figure equally utilizing the left-brain and right-brain.

Science has just revealed … (wait for it …) You need your whole brain!

Sounds obvious enough, but it’s not uncommon to hear people say, “He’s awesome at taking tests, he must be left-brained.” Or, “She’s a really good painter—she must be right-brained.”

In fact, until recently, many people thought that artistic skills were mostly processed in the right side of the brain and analytical skills were mostly processed in the left side of the brain. This led people to believe that creative thinkers were “right-brained” and logical thinkers were “left-brained”—almost the same way that most people are right- or left-handed.

It was a simple way to explain why someone might be better at solving word puzzles than their friend who prefers to doodle amazing pictures. It was an “easy answer.” But it turns out, it wasn’t right (or left!).

A study that looked at 1,000 brain scans found that while certain regions in each side of the brain are responsible for certain types of tasks, the right side of the brain is no more creative than the left, and the left is no more analytical than the right.

The truth is being good at math requires both sides of your brain. You use the left side to count and memorize formulas and the right side to estimate sizes and shapes. So, you need both sides of your brain to pass geometry!

The lead researcher on the brain study said that individual talents seem to depend on connections that are formed between all regions of the brain—left, right, and center. The number of connections, or synapses, in our brain is mind-blowing: There are literally trillions (trillions!) of connections among billions of neurons in our brains. Each connection does its work to make each person unique—with different interests, strengths, personalities, and challenges.

This complexity helps to explain why there is still so much we don’t know about the brain, the impact of drugs, and why some people become addicted and others don’t, and why some recover and others don’t. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we protect our brains, keeping them healthy and drug free. (Read more about how drugs can change your brain.)

Tell us in comments: Are you a more creative or logical person? How would drugs interfere with your strengths?

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