How the Right Brain Works

Jill Bolte-Taylor

Jill Bolte-Taylor

Right Brained, what does this mean? It really is both easy and difficult to describe. When we talk about a person being right brained, when referring to Dyslexia, we mean that person mostly uses the processing strengths of the right hemisphere of the brain. Generally we say the right brain is very good at dealing with “the big picture”, “problem solving” and it perceives the world in the “here and now”. We also say that the left hemisphere works with the details of the past and future. That is pretty simple but what does this mean and how do we describe it? Read on and it will become a little less mysterious.

I recently watched a series of webcasts and videos presented by and about Dr Jill Bolte-Taylor. She is a brain researcher and neuroanatomist. On December 10, 1996 she had a stroke that essentially shut off the left half of her brain. Over an eight year period she recovered and has gotten the use of her left brain again. What is absolutely fascinating about her experience is the series of observations she made while fully conscious and aware of her situation but with only the right half of her brain functioning properly.  She described how she experienced her universe without borders or limits. She saw items in terms of pixels and those pixels simply blended into the pixels of the items nearby so in effect there were no limits to her own body and consciousness. She felt she was part of the entire universe and, for her, limits didn’t exist.

Dr Bolte-Taylors’s experiences have been profoundly life changing for her and have changed how she lives her life and are too vast to describe in this blog but I was able to look at the this right brain, left brain issue  from a different perspective. Let me describe some of the experiences she had during the initial stroke itself to give you a sense of how the right brain and left brain work differently.

Her stroke left her confused and desperate to get help. She was able to stand and walk and breathe normally and she even realized that she could get help but because the right brain was almost completely dominant she had a series of almost insurmountable hurdles to overcome. She knew that she needed to contact somebody for help so she went to a set of business cards and a nearby phone. Her right brain knew that a business card had the phone number to call a colleague but her right brain also couldn’t read the numbers because that is part of the language of the left brain. She knew to match the shapes on the business card to the shapes on the phone. Because the right brain deals with the present and not the past or future she didn’t even know which numbers she had already pushed on the phone. She eventually got the number dialed and spoke to a colleague; at least her mind’s eye thought she was speaking. In reality, because the right brain does not process language, she was actually making nonsense sounds and hearing the same nonsense sounds from the phone. Eventually she got help and started her healing path. If you want to see this fascinating video follow this link.

After I saw this video I gained a new realization of what right brain versus left brain processing means. This also helped me to come to a different perception of how dyslexic individuals can struggle with tasks. In many instances these individuals have difficulty with the limits of the written word on a page because limits are part of what the left brain understands. When a person describes “the words falling off the page” when struggling to read a story it’s because this person needs some methods to learn how to recognize the limits of the page. The page has lines that are limits, punctuation also sets limits and the page edges are limits that some students don’t recognize.

What I understood while watching the video is by understanding what the dyslexic perceives we can begin to more easily create lessons and methods that are appropriate to that person. There is no use attempting to teach a dyslexic lesson formatted to how we perceive the information of the task, we need to be totally focused on what the student needs to see or hear or feel. That continues to be our mission at DYSLEXIA VICTORIA ONLINE and even that mission will probably change as we learn more about the subject of dyslexia.

Happy Trails!

Howie deGraaf