Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Are the Two Sides of the Brain Specialized for Different Tasks? - Why Is the Sound Made by Scratching a Chalkboard So Irritating?

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Are the Two Sides of the Brain Specialized for Different Tasks? - Why Is the Sound Made by Scratching a Chalkboard So Irritating?

Article excerpt

Byline: David J. Bucci and Melanie L. Matthies

Question

I've heard that the two sides of my brain are specialized for different tasks (language vs. reasoning, etc.). If I listen to a science lecture on my iPod using only one earpiece, will the way I process the information depend on which ear I use to listen to the lecture?

Ryan Sullivan, High School Biology Teacher, Millbury, Massachusetts

Answer

Auditory information is processed bilaterally in the brain at a very early stage in processing. So the answer to your question in general, is no. However, if one ear is impaired in receiving sound waves then there could be a difference in how well the information is processed. Secondly, there could be a difference if the information needs to be processed for location of the source. That being said, monaural localization can be done, just not as accurately as biaural.

The bilateral processing of sounds would not be possible were it not for the fact that the left and right sides of the brain are connected to each other. The hemispheres of the brain do have distinct capabilities. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body, and processes and controls communication such as verbal information. The left hemisphere processes information by putting cognitive parts together to form the whole. The right hemisphere is specialized for interpreting information from the outside world. The right hemisphere has functions that include musical ability and facial recognition; and linking the information derived from auditory and optical experience to help us make sense of them together.

For most people, the differences between the left and right hemipheres are not apparent (to them or to those who observe them) because the corpus callosum, and the anterior, posterior, and hyppocampal commissures serve as a neural connection to the two sides. This is widely known because of the results of damage to these connections, whether by accident or intentional, as in the case of certain surgeries to correct severe epilepsy. By studying these patients, namely the special way in which they process information, neurologists are able to map the left-right functions more accurately. …

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