Sunday, February 10, 2013

OBJECT #18: Brain book ends

    Brain anatomy seems to be a theme I can’t get away from.  The download-able brain hemisphere hat on my website has become the most popular free download item on my site.  It’s been used at science fairs from San Diego, CA, to Cambridge, England.  School teachers have used it in their classrooms then posted the pictures on their blogs.  An international publishing company discovered it and asked me to design a hat that was half brain/half elephant, for one of their advertising campaigns.  A neuroscientist emailed me about getting some printed to use as “microgifts” for his interns.  And, most recently, a brain imaging company in Boston had me do a mouse pad design using a modified version of the brain hat.

    This set of brain book ends was given to me by a former student who is now a young adult.  When she saw this item she said it just screamed my name, so she had to get it for me.  So now I have brain hemispheres between which I can keep all my books about brain hemispheres.  Works out nicely.

    I had to consult one of these books recently to do some fact checking for the left hemisphere brain mouse pad project.   According to this fairly scholarly book, the hemispheres are not quite as dissimilar as most popular science articles would have you believe, although language does seem to be solidly on the left side for about 90 percent of the population.  To date, there are no good theories as to why this should be so.  It just is.  (The same for handedness.  Why most people are right handed is a complete mystery.)  The unlucky 10 percent, whose brains have decided to use the right side for language, will almost certainly have issues with language processing, though in most cases the problems are mild enough that the affected persons can overcome the problems or learn to work around them.  (Many people who have this condition are unaware of it.)

    The left side of the brain has two special areas that the right side does not have--areas devoted to processing words.   Both areas bear the names of the people who discovered their significance.  Broca’s area is where we construct sentences before (or as) we say them.  Wernicke’s area is where we process the language that we hear, turning sounds into meaningful ideas.  These two areas connect to other areas of the brain, also.  No part of the brain functions independently from the others.

    This is the right hemisphere brain mouse pad.  The right hemisphere is usually non-verbal.  It is the center for creativity, music, and art.  It sees relationships between things, and understands “the whole picture.”  It is from the right hemisphere that those “Eureka!” moments come.

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