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Tom Evans : Which Side Are You On?

Which Side Are You On?

By Tom Evans

When you learn to ride a bike, you don't give a second thought to how you are doing it. In fact, if you did you would probably wobble a bit. Unless you are unfortunate enough to suffer brain damage or a form of dementia, it is also nearly impossible to un-learn how to ride that bike.

This curious ability we possess is a testament and indicator as to the function of the different sides of our brain. It's entered common myth that the left brain is logical and the right creative. It is no surprise that this is both a gross simplification and not true in all cases. Some peoples' brains are completely wired the other way around — or just differently in the case of savants.

The brain is not only one of the most complex objects in the known Universe but it has an ability to rewire itself upon a thought or when encountering a new experience. It is plastic, dynamic and self-programmable. Unlike other organs of the body, it evolves and can perform new and different functions — some of which are quite literally out of this world and not really accepted or understood by mainstream science or society. I will leave discussion of such different-abilities to a later article.

One of the most curious aspects of our brain is how it operates without us having to give a second thought to how we think. This ability is a clue to the real functions of the different hemispheres. It appears we quite literally in two minds about the world around us.

I've been reading a fabulous book by Iain McGilchrist called The Master and His Emissary. In it he describes how our left brain seems to handle repetitive tasks once learned. Our right brain, conversely, looks more holistically at a task and passes it to the left brain once it becomes engrained.

McGilchrist also describes how our brains are bilateral and how a chicken's left eye feeds the right brain which holistically scans for predators. Its right eye is focused on the ground, scanning for the detail of the next grain to peck at. Techniques are now available that allow the temporary numbing of areas of brain in healthy creatures so the effects can be observed by function becomes impaired — or enhanced.

What is more striking is that the right brain seems to sit outside of time and, to some degree, space. It is Everywhere and 'Everywhen' else to the left brain which sits inside space and inside time. You can imagine that the left brain's consciousness acts as a generator of what we think of as reality while the right brain's awareness acts as a receiver of what we perceive both inside and outside of our three dimensional world.

So a right brained thinker might have their head in the clouds and never get anything done. Conversely, the left brained thinking so prevalent in our culture and education system leads to the devil being in the detail and perhaps not thinking outside the box.

It's now thought that the structure which connects the two hemispheres, the corpus callosum, doesn't so much act as a conduit between them but inhibits one while the other can get on with its preferred task.

So to get into a whole brain mode of thinking, what we need to do is give our brains a task that gives both sides something to do at the same time and effectively inhibit the inhibiting action of the corpus callosum.

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