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VII. Earthomo Sapiens: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality

3. A Complementary Brain and Thought Process

Trimble, Michael. The Soul in the Brain: The Cerebral Basis of Language, Art, and Belief. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007. An esteemed professor of behavioral neurology at the University of London affirms complementary hemispheres with the neglected right side as the seat of our integral affinity.

The left and right hemispheres of the brain manipulate information differently, but it is only recently that the important contributions of the right hemisphere to our cultural achievements have become clearer. The right hemisphere more than the left is involved with the creation of the sense of self, is dominant for control of emotion and for retrieval of autobiographical memories, and is intimately involved with processing personally bonded features of an individual’s world – essentially, that which is familiar and is necessary for the creation and appreciation of poetry and music… (231-232)

Tucker, Don. Mind from Body. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Based upon a wealth of neural research findings and teaching experience, the University of Oregon psychologist achieves a novel synthesis which serves to (re)connect the human brain with its evolved organism. The influence of dual nervous system modes – the somatic which involves skin surface and skeletal muscles, and the visceral which regulates internal states – can be correspondingly noted in the brain’s structure and its responsive function. A major aspect is the elucidation of a structural relationship of these phases with the complementary, archetypal hemispheres. Another insight in this regard is to affirm a temporal sequence of right to left brain in the course of a child’s cognitive development. The implied recapitulation of this ontogeny with historical phylogeny is then duly mentioned.

Theorizing in this way could help us explain both cognitive and emotional aspects of hemispheric specialization: The right hemisphere’s organization of nonverbal communication of emotion is not only holistic and syncretic but emotional as well. It is strongly rooted at the limbic core. The left hemisphere’s contribution to rational thought is not just a product of the structural differentiation of ideas; rationality may be supported by a greater distance of left hemisphere networks from the embedding base of limbic, emotional meaning. (27) As we recognize hemisphere specialization for core and shell networks, we can see that the lateralized structures of intelligence, the holistic and analytic conceptual patterns, have each been elaborated toward one pole of the dialectic, the holistic core for the right hemisphere and the differentiated shell for the left. (240)

The child’s mind begins with a holistic, diffuse order and gradually differentiates into more articulated and systematized conceptual organization. (54) The developmental basis for this right-to-left shift of hemispheric contributions may be seen in the first years of life. Babies appear to start organizing intelligence within the right hemisphere, as their dominant mode of processing, in the first year of life. In the second year, as motor and language patterns become more routinized and practiced, the left hemisphere takes on a greater role… We can see that this progression – from syncretic on the right toward differentiated on the left – is the same one that we have deduced from examining the core-to-shell progression of network organization within each hemisphere. (235)

Van Lancker, Diana. Personal Relevance and the Human Right Hemisphere. Brain and Cognition. 17/1, 1991. An earlier insight that a person’s self-identity and significance is based in and maintained by the holistic right side of the brain.

Vingerhoets, Guy. Phenotypes in Hemispheric Functional Segregation. Physics of Life Reviews. Online June, 2019. A Ghent University neuropsychologist contributes an advanced explanation for life’s cerebral, cognitive allotment into complementary, near/far, below/above, dense/sparse reciprocities. See also a commentary Hemispheric Functional Segregation as By-products of the Evolution of Lateralization Population Structure by Giorgia Vallortigara.

Directional hemispheric dominance has been established for numerous cognitive functions in the human brain. Strong population biases with some functions favoring the left and others the right hemisphere generated the popular idea of an advantageous prototypical division of labor, molded by evolution and genetically blueprinted. As most lateralization studies focused on a single function at a time, little is known about the relation between asymmetric and atypical segregation in healthy individuals. I summarize the literature about behavioral and neural consequences and the evidence for intermediate phenotypes in brain functional segregation that could bridge behavioral and genetic data. (Abstract)

Vogel, Jennifer, et al. Cerebral Lateralization of Spatial Abilities. Brain and Cognition. 52/197, 2003. An extensive literature survey finds that for many individuals and situations, the right hemisphere is more dominant for spatial visualization and tasks. Males tend to primarily use the RH for this purpose while females rely more on an integration of both hemispheres.

Von Muller, Albrecht. The Logic of Constellations: A Complementary Mode of Thinking that is Crucial for Understanding How Reality Actually Takes Place. Han, Shihui and Ernst Poppel, eds. Culture and Neural Frames of Cognition and Communication. Berlin: Springer, 2011. The director of the Parimenides Center for the Study of Thinking, and guiding mentor for the project, offers another take on the evident presence of distinct temporal and spatial phases of perceptive cognition. With some jargon, in cerebral evolution a LOC integral mode precedes a RMC (see below) detail stage, which beg prior and later right and left hemispheres but not mentioned. If such a “self-referential autogenesis” could be joined in reciprocal global and local unity it would reveal the meaningful “actual taking place of reality.” May we again notice, both in this paper and the whole book, by whatever approach, the ever present creative role of these genetic, gender archetypes?

It is argued that in human thinking there exist two basic modes of connecting mental content. One is the rather well-understood and well-formalizable “ratio-morphic concatenation” (RMC). This mode corresponds to the factual aspect of reality and it lends itself for precise analysis. Most of the history of “logic” focused on this mode of thinking. There also exists, however, a second, phylogenetically much older, less precisely definable mode of connecting mental content. For this mode, the notion “logic of constellations” (LOC) is introduced. Firstly, there is a process in which the different components of a constellation interpret each other mutually, and thus unfold their specific meaning in their actual constellation. Secondly, there emerges, out of all these “bilateral” processes of semantic unfolding, a global, overarching “picture” or “meaning”. This emergent “big picture” is meaningful, but never well-defined. Thirdly, the overarching picture starts to impact – in a kind of top-down re-interpretation – on its own constituents and sharpens their meaning once again. (Abstract, 199)

Wolf, Maryanne. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. New York: Harper Perennial, 2007. The Tufts University developmental psychologist achieves a unique study of how cerebral faculties have adjusted through time to discern and live in a broadly literal environment. From the simple squid with a few axons to the dense writings of Marcel Proust, neural capacities have adapted in kind. An historic shift occurred from Chinese and Sumerian logographic symbols to later alphabetic detail. Individual brains, as they develop, are seen to follow a somewhat similar path. The work of her Center for Reading and Language to study difficulties with reading is then reported. What may be gleaned, akin to Laura Otis’ Rethinking Thought (2015) and recent neuroscience findings (e.g. Nina Kraus) is that conversation, writing, and reading are an interplay of both attention to letters and words, along with their holistic rhythms. Look for her new book with Stephanie Gottwald What It Means to Read: A Literacy Agenda for the Digital Age (Oxford, 2016).

Wray, Alison. Formulaic Language and the Lexicon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. The Cardiff University linguist reports on a decade of her own research, along with extensive literature studies, from which arises a dual, bicameral view of the composition of language and its cerebral basis. Formulaic means the presence of retained, holistic amalgams, clichés, or chunks of words and phrases that can be automatically drawn upon. This occurs in contrast to instant grammatical processing which continuously joins discrete words. What Wray then achieves is to show how these complementary modes align with the right and left brain hemispheres. Furthermore, these propensities tract and confirm a life long sequence from an initial gestalt phase up to two years of age, an analytical stage into the teens, and a potential adult whole brain balance. The left side employs a lexicon of single words, while the right stores formulaic word strings or sentences. Such properties in the realm of our speech and expression, I add, are another way to conceive human beings as a microcosm.

Zaidel, Eran and Marco Iacoboni, eds. The Parallel Brain. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. Reports on the importance of the corpus callosum, the fibrous midbrain area that connects left and right hemisphere. Its role in interhemispheric specialization is seen to develop similarly in evolutionary phylogeny and individual ontogeny.

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