Are you right-brained or left-brained? It may be more complicated than that… Knowing the world, we’d say it’s more complicated.

The left hemisphere of the brain is often associated with a distinctive analytic and verbal style of thinking. The right hemisphere is associated with a more holistic, creative style. Or so people think.

Leading cognitive neuroscientist, Kara D. Federmeier, whose research focuses on hemispheric asymmetries tends to disagree with right and left brain theory.

She considers math skills, which people often think what the “logical” left hemisphere would excel at. However, there are so many different math skills, from counting to calculus (ew). Research shows that math skills arise from processing in both hemispheres (is math too hard for only one?). There’s a left hemisphere advantage in tasks like counting and reciting multiplication tables, which focus on memorized verbal information. The right hemisphere is better at estimating the quantity of a set of objects. Most cognitive skills follow this pattern in which both hemispheres of the brain make critical contributions.

Take the claim that the left hemisphere is the seat of language, which comes from observations that damage to the left hemisphere is associated with difficulties producing language. It’s mostly true. For most people, the left hemisphere does play a much more critical role in the ability to speak than the right hemisphere does.

However, Federmeir’s studies show the right hemispheres’ ability to comprehend language. Both hemispheres can figure out the meaning of words and sentences – they just have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to comprehending.

It takes two hemispheres to tango… and uh to be both logical and creative (though one might have two left feet).

How and why do the cranial hemispheres differ?

Federmeir thinks the hemispheres differ because of small differences in something like the strength of the connection between areas of the brain, which can lead to very different dynamic patterns of activation over time. For example, for language comprehension, left hemisphere processing is more influenced by “top-down” connections, which means that the left hemisphere is more likely to predict what word might be coming up next. The right hemisphere is more able to later remember details about the words it encountered. Likely, there is a difference in the efficacy of particular connections within each hemisphere, causing the same brain areas in the two to interact differently, leading to measurable and meaningful asymmetries in how words are perceived, comprehended, remembered, and responded to.

It seems safe to say that, for the most part, we all use both sides of our brains almost all the time.