Monday, June 19, 2006

The Right Brain Difference: The Complex Story in Our Brains

This is one of those "Aha!" papers for us. We often see kids- including many gifted dyslexics - with superior story processing, but a weakness in word fluency. These are the kids that may seem to struggle with speaking or answering quickly, but then (with a little bit of time), unload a surprisingly complex insight, deep comprehension, perfectly appropriate verbal picture, analogy, or metaphor.

Well, as detailed more in the review below, there is an evolving scientific story that suggests that the "right-brain" difference reaches down to the individual neuronal level. Dendritic trees in right hemispheric language regions extend widely, while the processes on the left don't extend very far. If we were to think that right-brain thinking involves expanding the range of possibilities, histologists might say - that's it exactly.

There are lots of implications here- first of all - just think of those thousands of rich story-thinking students out there who may sinking rather than swimming in fast-paced classrooms where quick answers are the only answers that are valued. Supposedly the average teacher will wait 3 seconds or less for a student to answer. It's easy to see how right-dominant language students could get lost in the shuffle.

And what about right-dominant thinkers being taught by left-dominant teachers, or left-dominant thinkers being taught by right-dominant teachers? Clashes must happen all the time.

Finally, no wonder "right-brain" thinking with its value on narrative and the big picture is increasingly being recognized as important for creative problem solving, business and other innovation, and leadership. One would think that this more widely-connected network is the best one to use a new vision or story is what's needed.

Story Comprehension in the Brain and fMRI pdf
Geniuses at a Loss for Words pdf
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Gifted Dyslexics
Eide Neurolearning Blog: What Reading Does for the Mind - and How Gifted Dyslexics Defy the Matthew Effect
Eide Neurolearning Blog: The Biology of Late Bloomers - Gifted, but Immature?
Leadership and Stories
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Complex Thinkers
Dan Pink


  1. Interesting...on my blog The Engaging Brand..I have dedicated a piece to my father who was dyslexic, left school at 12, and yet had an amazing brain. His connection was people was immense - he said that was because that he couldn't write so he had to find a different way to communicate even as a child. Also he specialised in droplet formation! Such a scientifc area and yet he had no education....his understanding led him to be recognised as an expert. Yet, it always amazes me that he was taught nothing, somehow the lack of reading and learning meant that he had this incredible desire to try something new. Maybe there is a lesson now are spoon fed with so called education and yet does this lesson the right brain activity?

  2. Dear Anna,

    Your comments about your father both here and on your blog are deeply meaningful to us, both because of our work with many children who share your father's mix of conventional learning challenges and incredible creativity and brilliance, and because of our personal and family experience with dyslexia. The kind of information you have to share about your father is very important, and although you are obviously tremendously busy we hope you will try to find ways of sharing your father's story with as many people as you can--and especially with teachers, the families of dyslexics, and children with dyslexia. Although the openness of people like Richard Branson to sharing their own struggles with dyslexia has helped to improve the understanding of the intellectual gifts possessed by many dyslexics, many people are still not as well informed on this topic as they need to be. Allowing people to see and understand the incredible strengths that many dyslexics have is one of our chief goals. Last month we delivered a paper in Iowa at a conference for researchers on giftedness discussing the characteristics of the intellectually gifted children we've seen in our practice over the last two years, and it was wonderful to have a chance to address this often overlooked issue. Coincidentally, we just had an email yesterday from one of our good American friends who has probably done more than anyone in recent years to increase the understanding of intellectual potential of dyslexics--Thomas G. West, author of "In the Mind's Eye" and "Thinking Like Einstein"--who happens to be lecturing over in the UK right now. If you've never had a chance to read "In the Mind's Eye," you might want to check it out sometime.

    Thanks for your kind and helpful comments.

    Brock and Fernette Eide