The split brain: A tale of two halves, by David Wolman

In the 1960s and 70s, a number of patients had their brains split surgically: the left and right hemispheres were separated by severing the corpus callosum. This was to cure epilepsy. At first there didn’t seem to be any side effects, but then the patients started reporting strange experiences, like their left and right hands attempting to put on different clothes.

This was the beginning of an amazing series of experiments, which has shed light on what the functions of the two different sides of the brain. You might have read some pop-psychology about how the right brain is “creative”, and how we need to engage “whole brain thinking.” This kind of dumbed-down drivel unfortunately pervades the science pages of the popular press, and has found its way into business and education orthodoxy. The truth is way more interesting.

This article in nature also contains a couple of great videos, and an excellent podcast.

Nature Volume:483, Pages:260–263 Date published:(15 March 2012)


Right Hand, Left Hand, by Chris McManus

512yxI6NxbLThe left hemisphere of the brain is “logical”, and the right is “emotional”, yes? Left handed people are more creative? Right handed people more logical? These are the kind of pseudo-scientific factoids that give psychology a bad name with other scientists. Like many lazy oversimplifications, there is a grain of truth at the core of them. Proper psychological science is about using observation and experiment to get to the bottom of the matter, and this book reviews what we actually know about lateralisation of function in the human brain.

It is really readable. It ranges from psychology to anthropology, molecular biology to astronomy, and cultural studies to anecdote. It has won loads of prizes, is great fun to read, and frankly is absolutely fascinating.

If you’re just interested in the psychology then perhaps start with chapter 8, but in fact I would just start at the beginning because you’re probably going to end up reading the whole thing anyway!