It is widely believed in popular culture that the brain hemispheres differ in their characteristics.
The right hemisphere has traditionally been associated with the artistic , while the left hemisphere is considered more analytical, involved in aspects such as mathematics and verbal language.
Although many nonsense have been said about what each of the hemispheres do, the truth is that both brain structures do differ in terms of their characteristics and functions.
In this article we will talk about the right brain hemisphere , what are its most remarkable characteristics and functions, besides describing a syndrome related to this structure and its symptoms.
What is a hemisphere of the brain?
Before going into more detail about the particularities of the right hemisphere, it is first necessary to explain what a brain hemisphere is, and what role it plays in the nervous system of human beings.
The word hemisphere comes from the Greek words ‘hemi’ (‘half’) and ‘sphera’ (‘sphere’), and when we talk about the brain hemispheres, we refer to each of the two main portions that make up the brain.
The hemispheres are inverse to each other, but not inversely symmetrical. These structures are separated by a line called the interhemispheric cleft , and that is why we talk about left and right hemispheres. Deep within this fissure is the corpus callosum which connects both hemispheres.
How is the right brain hemisphere structured?
The right cerebral hemisphere constitutes the upper and right half of the brain. This structure, like its left counterpart, comprises half of the five large brain lobes:
- Frontal lobe
- Parietal lobe
- Temporal lobe
- Occipital lobe
As we have already mentioned, both hemispheres are separated by the interhemispheric fissure, also called the cerebral longitudinal fissure. At the deepest part of this fissure is the corpus callosum , a structure of nerve fibres which connects both hemispheres. Since both hemispheres need to share information with each other constantly, the corpus callosum is a structure that fulfils a great function.
Like other brain structures, the right hemisphere is protected by three layers:
- dura mater : the membrane that is closest to the skull, allowing the brain to be well connected to the bone.
- Arachnoides : between the dura mater and the pia mater.
- Piamadre : innermost membrane, contiguous to the brain matter.
Although structurally similar to the left hemisphere, the right hemisphere has different characteristics. The left hemisphere is considered the most analytical, while the right hemisphere is attributed more creative characteristics. Next we will see in more detail what are the most representative characteristics of the right hemisphere of the brain :
Playing an instrument, identifying precisely which note is being heard or quickly learning the rhythm of a melody are aspects of the right hemisphere.
That the right hemisphere has a synthetic processing means allows to postulate hypotheses and to propose ideas , with the intention of contrasting them, to see if they are true or not and, in case it is not so, to raise new ones.
The generation of new thoughts does not necessarily have to be linked to the veracity of a fact. Something new can be raised simply with the intention of being original.
To say that the right hemisphere is a structure that is not involved in language is not entirely true. This human capacity involves several brain areas, some of them being on the right side. However, it is true that verbal aspects such as speech and literacy are more specific to the left hemisphere.
In the right hemisphere there is the capacity to be able to analyse those non-verbalised aspects of language , such as facial gestures.
The proper processing of the right hemisphere is to adopt a broad vision of a problem, rather than opting for a detailed analysis of each of the details that make it up.
It therefore analyses a specific stimulus in an integrated and comprehensive manner. For this reason, it is the right hemisphere that is mostly behind the artistic and innovative processes.
Last but not least, the geometric and spatial abilities of the right hemisphere are the most remarkable cognitive abilities of this structure .
Thanks to this, it is possible to order space, generate mental images or build geometric structures.
Related to the above-mentioned characteristics, the right hemisphere is capable of conceiving strategies in a broad way, integrating the details that make up a situation or problem and allowing to see in a holistic way what happens . Thus, it is possible to see images, hear sounds and perceive smells as a whole.
1. Spatial orientation
Thanks to the right hemisphere it is possible to orientate oneself in physical space. It allows us to know what object we are looking at or where we are from aspects such as colour, shape or other characteristics present in the environment.
Locating oneself in space, identifying objects, recognizing faces of loved ones are just some of the capabilities offered by the spatial capacity of this hemisphere.
2. Stimulus processing
In short, each cerebral hemisphere is responsible for processing the stimuli captured in its opposite hemicorpus (half of the body). The right hemisphere is in charge of ‘feeling’ the stimuli that have been given to the left part of the body .
So, when we are touching something with our left hand it would be the right hemisphere that would process the associated sensation.
3. Emotionality and non-verbal aspects
The right hemisphere takes on a great role in terms of the elaboration of feelings .
Moreover, when analyzing them, it opts for more integrative tools instead of analytical ones, unlike its left hemisphere counterpart.
On the other hand, it is able to identify non-verbalised aspects such as prosody in language (tone of speech, expressiveness…).
Right hemisphere syndrome
Sometimes it happens that one of the hemispheres suffers an injury . These injuries imply an impairment in the cognitive capacities of the person, which may imply a greater or lesser degree of discomfort after having suffered the accident. Right hemisphere syndrome is a neurological condition in which the white matter of this brain structure has been damaged. It may also be due to injuries to the pathways connecting to the left hemisphere.
For most people, the right hemisphere is usually the least dominant. As we have already mentioned, this structure is the one with the most characteristics related to non-verbal communication. Thus, an injury in this hemisphere implies problems such as difficulties in interpreting facial gestures and postural variations.
With the facial expression people indicate if they are happy, angry, sad or disgusted by something in a very clear way. Postures are more subtle forms of emotional expression, which may indicate discomfort, nervousness or being defensive. Although useful, verbalised language does not allow us to fully communicate our feelings , and can even indicate the opposite (e.g. when we say we are not nervous but our legs are shaking).
For reasons such as these, the right hemisphere syndrome implies a great degree of affectation in the person’s life, since it makes emotional recognition difficult. In addition, it also implies not being able to express with the proper emotional and non-verbal language what feelings are being felt, implying a clear affectation in the social life.
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