The Differences Between Left and Right Brain

*Disclaimer: I am writing this blog as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge - 50,000 words in 30 days. My goals with this and other blogs are to write a total of 50,000 words and to present the brain and learning in a less technical way. I don't know if these blogs will lead to a book, but if they do, I will acknowledge anyone who has commented on my blog (with their permission of course!) Please see my questions at the end of this blog, even if you didn't understand this blog!

Just like I wrote two political blogs, let's stick with touch one more time, and more specifically, hands.

Did you know that sleep shows activity in left-brain that isn't necessary the same in the right brain? Who thinks up of these things? Well, I guess I do. I'm incredibly ideational. When I was working on my dissertation, I changed my topic so many times. Perhaps those changes and my inability to truly follow through were the real reasons that I withdrew from my doctoral program. Of course, I'm sure my medical issues were also an issue. But, I'm more ideational than most. I'm more of a thinker than a doer. Having said that, I love reading articles about thinkers AND doers. Such is the article I read today.

Today's topic, "Lefty and Righties Benefit Differently from Naps", is a study performed by lead researcher, Andrei Medvedev PhD of Georgetown University.

Sleep is so incredibly important. Research shows that sleep allows the brain to recuperate, maintain optimal health, and most importantly, learn. The National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health contend that the optimal amount of sleep for adults is between seven and eight hours; for children, the optimal amount of sleep is between nine to ten hours.

But is there another aspect to sleep? What happens neurologically or cognitively when you sleep? Andrei Medvedev PhD attempts to answer this question.
  • Near-infrared spectroscopy: a relatively new technique that uses radiation equal the same level emitted by a television that shows light and color to measure the level of oxygenated blood flow.
  • left-brained strengths: logic, math, and language, numbers, symbolic
  • right-brained strengths: art, spatial awareness, kinesthetic, intuitive
  • power nap: (I don't usually depend on Wikipedia, but in this case, it does provide the best definition) brief naps from ten to fifteen minutes where sleepers are wakened prior to entering a normal sleep cycle.
The Study
It is important to note that this study did not investigate sleep, but rather power naps. Naps, less than an hour, are easier to wake from. Naps, longer than an hour, result in fatigue and reduced energy. In this study, even shorter naps were studied to best examine brain activity and blood flow.

Basing Medvedev's study on the previous studies of right-brained and left-brained strengths, he and his associated researchers found "the right hemisphere of the brain communicates more with itself and the left side of the brain, than when the left hemisphere talks to itself and communicates to the right side of the brain".

Like the abortion study I addressed in my previous blog, the researchers investigated a small number of participants. It is not known, however, if these participants were students at Georgetown or not.
The near-infrared spectroscopy determined which hemisphere showed greater oxygen in the blood flow within the brain along with increased activity within the brain.

My Analysis
The title of this article is misleading. A reader drawn to the title of this article may think that the study's findings proved the difference between left-handed and right-handed individuals. In fact, this study does not. I'll blame the journalist for that error. Researchers admit there were no significant differences between left-handed and right-handed individuals in this particular study. Rather, Medvedev and his associate researchers inferred from their findings - the right hemisphere is more active in neuronal communication than the left hemisphere - that right-handed individuals improved their brains more than left-handed individuals: "The investigators were surprised that the right and left hemispheres behaved differently regardless of which hand the participants used". There are certainly proven research demonstrating that right-handed people use the left hemisphere of the brain more than left-handed people and left-handed people use the right hemisphere of the brain more than right handed people. This particular study, though, was not able to prove a connection between handedness and hemisphere dominance

My questions of this study are why did the researchers feel that twenty-four participants were an appropriate sample to generalize to a greater population; and would a larger sample demonstrate significant differences between left-handed and right-handed individuals. If the answer to my second question is yes, then those involved in this study would not need to infer findings from the results. Is this study reliable? Well, it was of superior quality to be presented at Neuroscience 2012, and it is an interesting, if not unique, study.

As with any scientific study, there should be implications for further research. This study is no different. Though, the article did not mention these implications, I've developed my own: future studies should involve a larger sample to prove or disprove the hypothesis of left-handed individuals benefit from naps to a greater significance than right-handed people.

Words: 782  -- Cumulative total= 3020/50,000 (does not include disclaimer or questions below)

Questions to my readers:
  • Was this blog too technical or too basic?
  • What did you like best/worst about this blog?
  • What questions did you have about this topic after you finished reading, if any?
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