In the 1960’s, a doctor named Roger W. Sperry started cutting people’s brains in half to cure epilepsy. That might sound crazy to most, but it was the 60’s after all, and as it turns out… it worked! (most of the time)
Your left brain and right brain explained
The brain has a left hemisphere and a right hemisphere, connected by the corpus callosum, which is a structure of nervous system networks. The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. Nature’s little prank on us all, if you will.
There are also certain parts of each hemisphere that have been proven to control certain aspects of human behaviours, such as language, fine motor skills, emotions and senses.
The corpus callosum sits in the middle and helps the two hemispheres to collaborate with each other so that we can approach tasks and perceive incoming neurological messages holistically. It also helps us to multitask!
So when Sperry chopped out peoples’ corpus callosums in order to cure epilepsy, medical specialists and scientists collectively held their breaths in anticipation of the prognosis for the patients. Although the prognosis was surprisingly good – it did, in fact, treat epilepsy – Sperry also noticed that his patients experienced a few side effects, specifically with language and remembering words.
For example, when his patients showed difficulty with words while using their right brain, Sperry suggested that vocabulary and certain aspects of language fell on the left side of the brain, but that the ability to express or attribute emotion to expression fell on the right.
When the world twisted Roger W. Sperry’s findings
Fast-forward to 1973: the media caught wind of Sperry’s research (finally – because it was the 70’s and no one had Google back then). In an attempt to create something sensational to read, some of the biggest journalistic publications of the time released over-simplified summaries of a decade’s worth of scientific research, suggesting that people were either logical left-brained or creative right-brained. Thus, by ignoring the complexity of the brain and the depths of Sperry’s research, the idea spread like wildfire, albeit a mythical one.
And it’s a myth that still has multitudes fooled, especially in education, where it’s believed by many that scholars and students are one-hemisphere-controlled and should actively centre their studies and career pursuits after this deeply flawed idea.
You can still be an astronaut
The idea of left brain vs. right brain in education no longer needs to derail students. To allow such a misrepresentation of science to divert anyone from following dreams is a terrible travesty that results in deeply passionate workers being trapped in dispassionate jobs, where they simply don’t belong.
You only need to know two things to be an astronaut (hypothetically speaking):
- Know your strengths, and your weaknesses
- Know that your whole brain can be invested in your life pursuits – not just half.
It excites us to see people go after their dreams, and we thrive on creating environments that nurture that. Get in on the action – contact us if you’d like to talk about furthering your studies, or helping others achieve their goals.
To understand a little more about the brain click here.