I hope the last blog wasn’t too technical. I find I learn better when I put concepts into analogies and then create pictures to show the concept visually. Here goes my analogy of the brain:
Imagine this is what your brain looks like, with the two hemispheres apart from each other. (They aren’t really separate like this, but it helps create the concept of the corpus callosum.)
Imagine on each side of your neo-cortex you have these little filing cabinets. This is where you store all your information. Now, some people have a great filing system, with colour-coded files and nice, neat tabs, all organized. Let’s say this is more characteristic of a left-brain learner, who is very logical and analytical. They tend to prefer order and things presented in sequential order.
Other people have the information stuffed in the filing cabinets in a less-organized way. It may not be in the correct folder or even in a folder, but the same information is in the actual drawers. Then there are those people who have no organizing system at all. All the information is in the filing cabinet drawers. It is just a matter of where they stored it. We could say this is more characteristic of a right-brain learner. This type of learner/processor of information is more spontaneous.
This is an exaggeration, as an individual is not just a right or left brain learner. But the overall categorization is true on how information is processed.
So what type of filing cabinet do you have?
Mine used to be more like the second example. I wanted it neat and organized with coloured folders, and I would start out like that. But then I would run out of time, so I just threw the pages into the big file folder in my actual filing cabinet and in my brain to sort later. You know what the problem is: later never comes, and ultimately I would spend forever trying to find where I put the information in the first place. I have learned to create actual blank files with tabs that I can quickly use, writing the title on the folder immediately. It helps with the organization of my filing cabinet, and I can find my information faster. It is my hope it will help with my internal brain organization also. I trust my brain will remember that I actually put the paper/information in a colour-coded file folder in a real filing cabinet, so I can recall the information at a later date.
I am sure some of you are thinking – man, that is crazy! Why wouldn’t you just start with that great organization right from the start?! Realistically, it is just not that easy for everyone to think in that organized fashion. A dominant left-brain processer and learner would naturally think of this analytical organization system, but a right-brain learner would not think in this manner.
So, imagine now that when you take in information, you choose to store it in the filing cabinet on either the left or right hemisphere. We both might learn the same information, but we each choose to store it in whatever filing cabinet (or hemisphere of the brain) we want, on whatever side of the brain we are using more at that moment for processing and storing information.
Again, some of you store it in a neat, organized section of your filing cabinet (your hemisphere), while others just throw the information in the right-brained filing cabinet, finding it hard to retrieve that information at a later date.
Here’s the thing: we all store information in different ways in our brain. Some brains will group concepts together and put them in one area of the brain like a file folder, with the brain deciding if it wants to store the information in either its right or left hemisphere.
Eric Jensen, in his book Brain-Based Learning (Revised), talks about how the “hemispheres alternate cycles of efficiency every 90-100 minutes (from high spatial-low verbal, to high verbal-low spatial). Learners switch from right to left-brain dominance sixteen times throughout the day.”
So, as an individual, sometimes we can easily recall facts because during that learning period, we may have been functioning more on the left side of the brain, so it was stored in a logical manner. If, however, at the moment of storing information, we were functioning with more of the right hemisphere being more dominant, the information would be stored differently, maybe not in that organized file folder but somewhere in the brain.
Now back to my analogy: Every time you move, you are sending neural pathways between the two hemispheres through the corpus callosum. When you perform contralateral or cross-lateral movements (where one part of the body crosses over the midline of the body), you are sending signals along the neural pathway. I had a boy in my Grade 6 class, Drupadh, who created these pictures for me. Imagine this pathway looked like a piece of uncooked spaghetti. Now, the little person in your brain has to remember a piece of information you have learned and filed in your filing cabinet. You have to walk over the uncooked piece of spaghetti slowly between the two hemispheres (this is the corpus callosum). It may take you a long time to walk across the uncooked spaghetti because you don’t want to fall, so recall of the information takes a long time. You might finally get to your filing cabinet, and it takes you even longer to find WHERE you stored the information.
The more you do contralateral movements, the more pieces of spaghetti (neural pathways) you are creating.
Now, instead of firing across pieces of spaghetti, imagine they are linguini noodles. You can move a little faster between the two hemispheres over the corpus callosum. Your recall is a little faster and you aren’t afraid of falling into the abyss in the middle of your brain. There is a little less stress trying to find the information you have stored.
Imagine you keep doing cross crawls, lazy 8’s, and touching your right hand to your left knee (Contralateral movements). You are strengthening the nerve-cell pathways that link both sides of the brain through this corpus callosum, thus making communication between the two hemispheres easier and quicker.
Next thing you know, you have these huge lasagna noodles that you can travel on between both sides of your neo-cortex. Your recall is very fast and there is no stress of falling into the corpus callus because you have such a strong net of neural fibers to protect you. The great part of it all is that once you create that neural pathway, it stays there forever. Oh, it might sag a little bit, but you just do more contralateral movements and you strengthen the parts that need support.
I hope this analogy helps you understand why getting to Contralateral movement is so important. When one focuses on doing Homologous movements, you are creating pathways from the top to the bottom of the brain. Think of it as creating stairs to travel up and down each hemisphere. Doing Homolateral movements, i.e., same arm and leg, strengthens one side of the brain at a time. We need each hemisphere to have its own strong neural pathways within it to help with communication on that side of the brain. The Contralateral movements just pull both hemispheres of the cerebrum together to make learning easier.
Scan courtesy of Shawn Christ, Assistant Professor of Psychological Sciences.
This scan shows pathways passing through the corpus callosum, a large bundle of neural fibers connecting the brain’s left and right hemispheres. Red represents fibers running primarily left-right; blue is up-down; and green is front-back.
The goal I hope to achieve with all the work I do is to get both sides of the brain to work together at the same time, so that it does not matter what hemisphere you stored the information in; your whole brain is working in concert together, and learning is easier.
So, that is my thought process. What do you think about all this? Does this help you see how you process information? It is so important to do all the movement patterns I’ve discussed, as they are key building blocks for our growth and development.
All the best,