One of the most interesting things about the brain is that some people are right-handed, whereas others are left-handed. That is to say that some use the right side of their brain more dominantly, whereas others rely more on the left. But why does this occur? Recent studies show that what makes us left or right handed is determined before we are even born, while our spine is being formed in the womb. It is the way in which our spines are “wired” that makes us either right or left dominant. That’s all well and good, but what does the right side of the brain control? And what about the left? This is determined by something called lateralization, which refers to some brain functions taking place in one specific hemisphere rather than the other.
1. The Basics
The most basic thing to understand is that one side of the brain controls one side of the body, and the other side of the brain controls the other side of the body. But it’s not as simple as you might think. You see, the left side of the brain actually controls the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain actually controls the left side of the body. This “cross-wiring” of neural pathways means that if you’re left-handed, you’re actually more reliant on the right side of your brain, and vice versa. When you wink with you left eye, that movement is being controlled by the right side of your brain.
2. Thinking Style
Speaking generally, the left side of the brain and the right side of the brain are responsible for very distinct thinking patterns. What does the right side of the brain control in regards to thinking style? Generally, the right side of the brain thinks in pictures rather than words, using intuition and focusing on the bigger picture rather than the details. The left side of the brain focuses more on actual words, thinking in a very verbal way, honing in on the details first, then piecing them together to form the whole. It is generally agreed that the right side of the brain is the “creative” side, whereas the left side of the brain is the “logical” side.
Language is one area in which we can really see the difference between the right and left sides of the brain. Language in general is usually attributed to the left side of the brain. This comprises of vocabulary, grammar, and literal meanings. However, a good deal of language skills are also localized the right side of the brain. In terms of language skills, what does the right side of the brain control? Skills like intonation and accentuation, or in other words, how we speak in contrast to what we’re saying. Interestingly, only around 50% of left-handed people actually rely more heavily on the left side of their brain for language skills, meaning it’s actually pretty common for people to rely on the right side of their brain for language skills which are usually controlled by the left side.
The way the brain deals with music is another area in which we can see the differences between the right and left side of the brain. We’ve already established that the right side of the brain is responsible for creative thoughts, such as those involving music. So what does the right side of the brain control when it comes to music? The right side of the brain is actually focusing on the melody while you play music. While the right side of your brain is focusing on the melody, the left side of your brain is focusing on the spatial motor skills required for your hands to play the piano or violin.
Math is another area that gives us some insight into what part of the brain is responsible for what, and answers the question: “What does the right side of the brain control?” It is generally understood that the left side of the brain is responsible for exact calculation and other math skills, such as counting. But the left side of the brain is also responsible for a few math skills as well, such as estimating the amount of set objects. So although the left side of the brain is seen as the “logical” side of the brain, both the right side and the left side are needed to become a well-rounded mathematician!
The Hippocampus is the part of the brain that is associated with memory. Because this part of the brain occupies both sides of the brain, memory functions occur on both the right and left side of the brain. It is generally agreed however, that the left side of the brain plays a more vital role in memory. This is because the left side of the brain responsible for fact retrieval. In terms of memory, what does the right side of your brain control? The right side of the brain is responsible for things like reciting multiplication tables. So the two different sides each have a role in memory, although they are slightly different.
A very interesting fact about the way the two different sides of the brain work has to with survival. Studies have shown that in areas of the world where the climate is warm, food is abundant, and there are few risks to life, the right hand side of the brain is more dominant. In areas where the weather is cold, food is scarce, and threats to life are abundant, the left side of the brain is more dominant. This is true with people like the Inuit, who live in the cold north American climates. The reason for this is obvious – survival skills are based more on logic and spatial awareness than creativity and emotion. What does the right side of the brain control? Apparently the ability to survive…
8. Damage To The Right Side
Damage done to the right side of the brain has been shown to cause some pretty serious problems. A damaged right side of the brain can result in self-harming behavior, and even suicide in some cases. An overactive right side can cause feelings of depression and angst. Damage to the right side of the brain can also cause problems with language and perception, such as the lack of emotion while speaking. Various delusions such as the Capgras delusion are also associated damage to the right side of the brain.
9. Damage To The Left Side
Damage to the left hand side of the brain has some negative effects on vision. The most common of these effects is the reduction in visual spatial frequency, so that they can only see the bigger part of an image, and not the details. A condition known as Wernicke’s aphasia occurs when damage is done above the left Sylvian fissure, resulting in speech that sounds normal but is riddled with grammatical mistakes. Broca’s aphasia occurs when the Broca’s area of the brain is damaged, which is in the left interior frontal hemisphere. This results in people not being able to articulate themselves properly, with pronunciation of words also impaired.
10. Putting The Two Together
In conclusion, it is important to stress the fact that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to think. Both the left side and the right side have their advantages, and they simply represent two different ways of thinking. If you really want to increase your brainpower, then you should focus on using both sides of your brain together, as it has been shown that most skills occur across both sides of the brain. If you really want to get good at math or music, figure out ways to use both sides of the brain. People who have suffered damage to one side of the brain or the other have all too often figured out ways to use only one side of their brains for all the skills they need to live their lives. So what’s the answer to the question: “What does the right side of the brain control?” In the end, it doesn’t really matter!