Right Hemisphere: Informational,
Holistic, Subjective, Quantum Mechanical
Goldberg and Costa proposed that there is relatively more white matter in the right hemisphere (Right brain, left brain, Sally Springer, page 309). This suggests greater number of connections and pathways and therefore more freedom in its perceptional domain. As opposed to the left hemisphere, which picks the tree out of the forest, the right hemisphere looks at the overall pattern. The magno-cellular neurons are stronger in the left visual field, which feeds the right hemisphere. These neurons in retina are sensitive to patterns and movement. The image of the world is less divided, comprised of complex mental camouflages, and recalled in its entirety. The right brain focuses in a combination of images, kinetics, and functions. Borders between specific entities are softened. But if the visual field is made up of a combination of light or reflection of light of a mixture of sates, how do we perceive and distinguish objects from each other in the field? The phenomenon of lateral inhibition offers an explanation. Lateral inhibition is the retina’s way of sharpening borders and dividing objects in the visual field. In the different layers of the retina, light excites receptors, which in turn excite bipolar cells. There are connections between these bipolar cells and horizontal cells. Horizontal cells have an inhibitory action. When light excites a receptor in the retina, the horizontal cells around the affected receptor prevent the bipolar cells on each side from being triggered. That is how we perceive that the world is made up of distinct and discrete objects. It has been shown that children are not able to detect visual contours camouflaged in a complex background at an adult level until adolescence (Chalupa and Huberman 2009, 67). It seems that the perception of discrete objects also has something to do with pathway formation and the fixation of neuronal circuitries during childhood and adolescence. The generation of visual percepts is not merely a mirroring of sensory input; rather, it depends on information processing distributed across a large number of cortical areas, such as the visual area dedicated to sensory processing, the attentional network engaged in top down control, and an executive network involved in making perceptual decisions (Li and Gilbert 2009, 137).
The right hemisphere specializes in tasks that are nonverbal, nonmathematical, and non-sequential in nature. In the eye of the interpreter (i.e., the left brain), the right hemisphere’s perception is mainly imaginative. Time does not exist in its domain, and everything is perceived as happening in the present. The now is expanded forever.
Dr. Jerre Levy from The University of Chicago’s Department of Psychology has studied the cognitive specialties of the right hemisphere. She found that the ability to make inter-modal spatial transformations from three-dimensional to unfolded two-dimensional forms was much better developed in the right hemisphere. This indicates complex visual and spatial functions of the right hemisphere, where the perception of part-whole relations originates. The ability to transform three dimensions to two also suggests that the sense of depth is pale in the right hemisphere (Kafatos and Nadeau 1999). Sally Springer calls right hemisphere manipulo-spatial when she relates to the right hemisphere’s ability to manipulate spatial patterns and relationships (left Brain/Right Brain, Springer, Deutsch Page 307). One can conclude that right hemisphere’s perception is not confined to specific spatial dimensions.
Since their left hemisphere is not matured yet, newborns do not have the sense of depth. The coherence of fronto-parietal white matter tract in the left hemisphere is greater among children aged eight to eighteen, who exhibit the greatest activation in superior frontal sulcus and the inter-parietal sulcus, which are involved in visual working memory (Bunge, Mackey, and Whitaker 2009, 74). That means that the areas of the brain responsible for visuo-spatial working memory are increasingly engaged during childhood and strengthen over time. Therefore, the cognition of space depends on the above brain structures that are not fully developed in early childhood. Meanwhile related networks that are not used by adults are weakened during this period. Therefore, space is perceived by children differently than it is perceived by adults.
Space as an isolated notion is not perceived by right hemisphere; merely the inter-relations are noted. One may speculate that the logical conclusion that space must exist to accommodate different events is merely an invention of left brain. It is interesting to note that space in quantum mechanics is quite different from space as we know it at the classical level. Quantum entanglement—where two particles are in direct contact with each other to the verge of a seamless unity, even if they are miles apart—puts the very notion of space and locality under question and suggests non-locality as a fundamental feature of the universe. Mind you that particle spin in quantum mechanics does not depend on spatial coordinates either. There is a hypothesis that the hippocampus is especially important in forming spatial memories. For example, experienced London taxi drivers have a larger-than-average posterior hippocampus (Kalat 2003, 399), suggesting that the adult human hippocampus actually grows in response to spatial learning experiences.
How much of spatial perception is related to the reality out there, and how much of it is a construct of our brain? The sense of spatial dimensions becomes pale in right brain’s perception (Taylor 2008). Steven J. Luck and George R. Mangun (2009, 187) write, “The operation of featured based attention sometimes precedes and guides the allocation of space-based attention.” Fotini Markopoulou (2009), a researcher from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, believes that space may not exist at all.
Luciano Gualberto and colleagues from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, discussed the mathematical role of time and space-time in some classical physical theories (da Costa 2008). They showed that time is eliminable in Newtonian mechanics and that space-time is also dispensable in Hamiltonian mechanics, Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory, the Dirac electron, classical gauge fields, and general relativity. The above makes possible the assumption that space-time as we perceive it may be just an approximation, created within our perception, of a more fundamental element.
The right brain hears the sounds and sees the world. However, the sounds are not isolated. The sense of self is pale as well, and skin is not the boundary. The right brain perceives us as connected and one with everything, not only the human race but everything else as well. One may assume that our ability to sense other people’s feelings and our sense of compassion originates here. In its eye, we are immersed in everything else in the planet and the universe. It tends to see the world as holistic and undivided entity. It just sees oneness.
The right hemisphere is “word blind,” or incapable of seeing meaning in printed words. However, even though the right mind usually does not deal with letters, words, and sentences, it is responsible for understanding nonverbal relations and communications. In an experiment, M. Gazzaniga (2009) and colleagues fitted a split-brain patient an eye-tracking device. In her left visual field (and therefore right hemisphere), they showed her a scary movie where a person was being thrown into a fire. When she was asked what she saw, she said, “Nothing. Maybe some red leaves.” And when asked if there was a person there, she said no. Her right brain either could not recognize the whole story or could not verbalize it. However, when she was asked what her feeling is, she said that she was scared. She then talked about the room, which was big and scary, and went on to say that although she normally liked Dr. Gazzaniga, she was now somehow afraid of him. This demonstrates how emotions felt by right hemisphere, made their way into her awareness.
In another experiment, a word like HATBAND was flashed in the middle of a screen in front of a split brain patient, she can only report what she saw in the right side of her visual field (seen by left hemisphere) so in a piece of paper she would write BAND or says the word Band. However, if we put some objects in front of her, including a hat, she would point to the hat with her left hand (Kalat 2003). This typical experiment shows how the right brain‘s perception is working from behind the scene.
Unlike the left brain, which deals with the quantitative measures of dialogue, the right brain is in charge of comprehending meaning in people’s expressions. It senses the emotions that accompany the conversation, not the individual wordings. It deals with the quality of communication. This is similar to the way a trained musician sees sheet music. The left brain sees the individual notes and keys, whereas right brain appreciates the essence of the tune and the emotions associated with it.
The behavior of young children in some situations resembles that of split-brain adults. The major link between right and left hemispheres, the corpus callosum, matures gradually between ages five and ten. The mature link is also the tool by which the left hemisphere comes to dominate the brain. With adulthood comes the dominance of the left hemisphere’s rational perceptions and suppression of the right hemisphere’s holistic insights.
The right hemisphere is designed to remember things as they relate to each other. It senses the movements and physiology of organisms in its totality. Dr. Taylor describes how after severe damage to her left brain, she was detached from so-called normal reality (Taylor 2008, 37). She mentions how she was “comforted by an expanding sense of grace … My consciousness soared into an all-knowingness, a ‘being at one’ with the universe, if you will … I could no longer clearly discern the physical boundaries of where I began and where I ended. I sensed the composition of my being as that of a fluid rather than that of a solid” (41).
She also describes the experience of living without her defective left brain as a very peaceful state of mind. During her stroke, the judging portion of her brain was absent and her brain chatter was silenced; as a result, she went under a blanket of tranquil euphoria. She describes her experience further: “Even though my thoughts were no longer a constant stream of chatter about the external world and my relationship to it, I was conscious and constantly present within my mind.” Taylor noted, “The right mind is spontaneous, care free and imaginative. It allows our artistic juices to flow free without inhibition or judgment” (Taylor 2008, 144).
The right brain is free from limitations of objective reality and can think intuitively, or outside the boundaries created by logical limitations. Dreams belong to right hemisphere and are mostly free of interference from the left hemisphere. Non-locality is a feature of dreams. In addition, dreams are not bound by time, as time and locality are features within the left brain’s perceptual framework. The right hemisphere is free to envisage all probabilities and possibilities. This is in line with quantum physics, where objects are considered to be in each and every possible state simultaneously. The right brain is spontaneous and imaginative. Logical limitations are not observed by the right hemisphere. It is therefore up to the left brain to pick the best choice out of the many offered, based on sequential reasoning and logic. That is how we see the world at the classical level.
Looking at the big picture, the right mind somehow visualizes existence as a superposition of states, imagining every probable state. It is not surprising that art and intuition are the domain of the right brain. Looking through the right brain’s lens, we can imagine and dream about any possibility at our will. All the probabilities can be envisaged by the right brain without limitations forced upon us by a logical mind. It is for this reason that in our dreams, it is not unusual to see someone change faces to symbolize different persons. Likewise, reality on the quantum mechanical level also exists concurrently in all possible states. One may postulate that the right brain reveals the quantum mechanical level of reality without interfering, interpreting, or manipulating the wave stimuli we receive.