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Articles by Dr. Billy Levin

ADHD & Left Handedness

© Dr. W.J. LEVIN MB ChB (Pta)

In about 1970 when epileptic treatment for severe Epilepsy did not work, doctors reasoned that splitting the brain into two halves through the Corpus Collosum, would result in the two brains hemispheres being disconnected from each other. This would prevent an Epileptic attack starting in the left brain from spreading to the right side, reducing the severity of the attack. Animal studies preceded humans It worked, and thus humans were available for the first time ever, with each brain disconnected from the other for research. Despite this major operation, when they recovered, they seemed fine and functioned relatively normally. Prior to this, it was not possible to establish what each hemisphere was able to do on its own, as the two brains, left and right were connected to each other and interfered with each other's function in various ways.

It was well known that a serious injury to left brain would cause paralysis to the right side of the body and speech would be affected. Injury to the right side caused paralysis on the left side and speech is not affected. Each brain hemisphere services the opposite side of the body. Roger Sperry working with split brain patients, established that the right brain was a practical, mechanical, hasty impulsive and temperamental brain with a talent for hastily doing without the thinking left brain interfering. The left brain was a logical, listening, language thinking brain. In an experiment, if the left hand would feel an object in a covered box the message would go to the right brain as the object being felt was recognized. However as there was no connection to the left language brain, the person could not name the object. The right brain beings visual, could recognize a colour but as the message could not be sent from the right visual brain to the left verbal brain. the person could not name the colour. There was no connection between the two brain hemispheres. Sperry received the Nobel Prize for his split brain research in about 1980.

Obviously, prior to the separation, when each brain functioned together with the opposite side, as a team, the more dominant left brain could first concentrate and listen to what is being said and react logically without allowing the hasty right brain to interfere. This adult mature arrangement allowed one to first think before doing or saying. What would happen if the right brain was dominant? Then hasty impulsive behavior would be obvious and saying without thinking would perhaps also result. There are genetically inherited conditions where the right brain is in fact dominant but not always left handed.

As infants we can cry emotionally with the tempramental right brain, but cannot talk as language has not yet developed on the left brain. Thus we are all right brain dominant at this stage and even at 2 years of age the right temperamental brain is still dominant . We talk about the behavior then as the "Terrible twos". As language slowly develops on the left brain, the left brain catches up to the right brain developmentally and overtakes it at about 5 years of age becoming dominant, and getting ready for formal schooling. Thus correctly described as the "left logical, listening, language, literacy and learning brain ", all needed for successful schooling and being right handed. The dominant left brain feeds the right side of our body making the right hand, eye and foot all dominant.

What would happen if the child genetically inherited a tendency to develop the right brain excessively. Excessive right brain would result in tendency to behavior problems and left brain immaturity to learning problems and increased use of the left hand .However, there are certain right brain functions that are well developed and can be seen as an asset. Art, music, mechanical talent and visual activities are all worth having in all people but there is a tendency to be more so in left handers.

Some people might have inherited right brain dominance , in various degrees from very mild to very severe. Obviously when very mild, it hardly causes a problem other than possibly being left handed.. The situation is genetically inherited. As already stated, the brain supports the opposite side of the body. That a large proportion of right brained dominant people are left handed is hardly surprising. However not all dominant right brains are left handed, it is a tendency, not a rule. There is also obviously an increased tendency to aim with the left eye and hop on the left foot, being right brain dominant.. Left brain dominance produces more right handed people.

When a psychologist tests the strength and ability of each brain by doing an IQ test the usual left brain dominance reveals a higher left brain verbal IQ An interesting observation in most left handers, is when an IQ is done the nonverbal IQ (right brain) is often higher than the Verbal IQ (left brain), as they are right brained dominant. Sperry deserved his Nobel Prize.

Herein lies the problem when the genetic inherited dysfunction is severe and not recognized and treated, the person has a natural talent to do or say without thinking and hastily getting into trouble through no fault of their own. When punished the dominant illogical right temperamental brain is stimulated with obvious negative results. It is estimated that 40% of prisoners, in jail for serious crime have unrecognized and untreated severe right brain dominance. The sad and tragic thing is severe right brain dominance can be diagnosed and treated successfully medically before it causes problems, even before starting school. Unfortunately neglect and delay makes success more difficult.

Once a neurological (not psychological) diagnosis has been made, the doctor medicates optimally, the parents or others motivate the patient, then the teacher educates to catch up the backlog. Formal remedial therapy is only used if required. One must add that if an undiagnosed adult still has the problem it is still not too late to treat successfully. An interesting aspect is the difference between boys and girls. More boys have the problem as their testosterone even from an early age boosts the right brain. In girls, their natural Estrogen boosts their left brain making them more lady like. Whoever said ADHD is a simple problem? No wonder there is so much misinformation and confusion about this inherited condition. There are classic superficial signs at birth to suggest the possibility of ADHD.

Dr Billy Levin

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