How Do I Define Hemispheric Specialization?

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Hemispheric specialization refers to the study of cognitive functions, dividing them up by the hemisphere of the brain responsible for them. Some function locations vary depending on the dominant hand of the patient. In general terms, literary functions are focused in the left hemisphere, particularly in right-handed people, while creative and figurative functions center in the right hemisphere.

Language production takes place in the left hemisphere in as many as 90 percent of right-handed people, but in left-handed people, it is either restricted to the right hemisphere or takes place in both hemispheres in about 50 percent of left-handed people. Linguistic functions that have to do with enunciation, such as accentuation and intonation, stay on the right side of the brain.

Processing auditory and visual stimuli, envisioning spatial manipulation and artistic acumen all come from the right side, although some people show function in both hemispheres for these functions. While exact mathematical calculations and factual memory reside on the left side, numerical comparison and estimation come from both sides of the brain.

Understanding brain function also helps neurologists understand conditions such as depression, which has connections to right-hemisphere hyperactivity, as well as to underactivity in the left hemisphere. The understanding of hemispheric specialization has applications in a number of other disciplines.