Thursday, October 18, 2007

Do You Lean To The Right Or To The Left?

If you are a regular reader here, you know that if the question about leaning to the right or to the left is asked with regard to politics, I am laying on my left side. There is not even any room for debate. However, I am not talking about politics here, or religion. I am talking about my brain. Not whether or not I have one that is functional, but which side is dominant, the right or the left.

Simply speaking, a dominant left brain is associated with logical and mathematical thinking. A dominant right brain is responsible for creativity. As a musician, one would expect my right side to be the dominant side. Except that I am really a music theorist; I look for meaning and logic in music. That sounds more like a left brain activity. Hmm . . .

There are many simple tests that will show you quickly which side of your brain is dominant. Try this. Reach both hands above your head. Clasp your fingers together comfortably. If your right thumb is on top then you are left brain dominant. If your left thumb is on top then you are right brain dominant. According to this exercise, I am right brain dominant. According to my friends, I am left brain dominant. I think in their minds this translates to anal retentive. Truthfully, when I look at both right brain and left brain dominant characteristics, I find an equality between the two with regard to my own behaviors.

This whole issue came up during a dinner conversation last night. A friend said that he had a test that was designed also to give you a quick read on this issue. You will find this test here. For me, this test was both amazing and scary. If you have not looked at the link, do not read on.

When I first looked at this image, there was no doubt in my head that she was turning clockwise. OK, I AM right brained. I tried to force myself to see her rotating in a counter-clockwise motion. I could not see it. I watched for several minutes. I sat back in my chair, paying no attention at this point to the whirling girl on my screen, and called BK to ask her if she had taken the test. When I looked up, damned if that girl wasn't turning counter-clockwise. I was convinced that this video was a trick, that she actually does change directions. BK and I watched together. When the dancer's direction changed again, I asked BK if she saw the change in direction. She responded with a confident, "Nope." What is going on here?

I became mesmerized by this little game. I continued to watch for several more minutes and, as I expected, my favorite ballerina changed direction several times. Still, BK did not see these shifts. We finally hung up the phone. I continued to stare. After about fifteen minutes of looking at this image, I realized that now the dancer looked to me like she was not even making a complete rotation. She was moving side to side in a movement much like windshield wipers. The explanation on the web page does not address what seeing this particular motion suggests. At this point, I became a little freaked out and decided that sleep might fix the problem.

When I got up this morning, I was still fascinated by this whole thing. I tried it again. Like last night, my initial response to the dancer was to see her spinning in a clockwise motion - making full circles. I began to wonder what would happen if researchers were to hook you up and monitor brain activity while you were looking at this picture. As these thoughts entered my mind, the girl changed direction. She began to move counter-clockwise.

Is it possible to have a brain where nether side is dominant? Or, both sides are equally dominant? I continue to be amazed at this whole thing. I guess the good news is at least I have a brain that is doing something.

Try it again. Do you see the same thing that you saw last time?