Brain Function

The Functions of the Right Side of the Brain

Unraveling the mysteries of the brain presents an exciting challenge to modern scientists.  Its complex series of connections and chemical signaling pathways make it virtually impossible to pinpoint the exact area of the brain responsible for a specific function.  In broad terms, the right side of the brain is held responsible for a person’s creative talents and higher cognitive functions.

The brain, a soft shiny grayish-white mass, can be divided into three main sections:  brainstem, cerebellum and cerebrum.  The brainstem is located at the base of the brain and connects the cerebellum and cerebrum to the spinal cord.  It is responsible for automatic body functions such as respiration, digestions and sleep.  The cerebellum is located above the brain stem but below the cerebrum.  It is responsible for coordination of movements and balance.  The cerebrum is located above the cerebellum.  It is responsible for higher brain functions. 

The cerebrum is the largest section of the brain.  It is the part of the brain that is grayish-white and convoluted in appearance.  It is divided by a deep fissure into two hemispheres – the right and left.  The right side of the brain is connected to the left side of the brain via a thick network of fibers through which information is exchanged.  

Early physicians noted that a patient with a defect to the right side of the brain, whether that defect was from an injury or a tumor, suffered paralysis on the left side of their body.  They concluded that the right side of the brain was responsible for controlling the left side of the body.  Anatomy studies revealed that the bundle of nerves from the left side of the body crisscrossed inside the brainstem to connect to the right side of the brain.  Hence the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body.

The right side of the brain is responsible for higher cognitive functions.  Although advancements in technology enable physicians and scientists to observe the brain through imaging and real time response to stimuli, many of these functions were identified through observing patients with a defect to the right side of the brain.  The right side of the brain uses imagination, holistic thinking and feelings to interpret input.  It is the source of artistic and musical talents.  It is responsible for recognizing symbols, perceiving spatial relations, and using abstract reasoning skills.  It is responsible for remembering things we see and do.  Without proper right brain function a person may not be able to solve common problems, may not be able to remember personal identification information or may have problems understanding humor or sarcasm.  A person that relies more on his right brain than his left brain tends to be more creative than logical.

New technology paired with good old fashioned research allows scientists to continue to develop a more precise map of the right side of the brain.  Being able to locate a very specific, isolated area of this map may help physicians cure diseases or enhance specific brain functions impaired by injury.   For now the possibilities seem endless.


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3.   Gulli, Farid Laith.  “Brain”.  The Gale Encyclopedia, 2008: p164 to 168.