Findings showed that when resting, the right hemisphere of the brain communicates more with itself and the left side of the brain, than when the left hemisphere talks to itself and communicates to the right side of the brain, regardless of participants' dominant hand. Neuroscientists did note that right-handed people used their left hemisphere at a higher rate, and vice versa.
The authors of this study say that during rest, the right hemisphere is "doing important things, we don't yet understand." The activities that are being processed by the right hemisphere could be storing and processing acquired information, daydreaming, or similar creative tasks. Andrei Medvedev, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging at Georgetown explains:
"The brain could be doing some helpful housecleaning, classifying data, consolidating memories. That could explain the power of napping. But we just don't know yet the relative roles of both hemispheres in those processes and whether the power nap might benefit righties more then lefties."
The researchers had 15 participants connect to near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) equipment. This inexpensive and moveable technology uses light to calculate changes in oxygenated hemoglobin inside the body.
Participants wore a hat that contained optical fibers delivering infrared light to the outermost layers of the brain and then assessed the light that bounced back. Through this method, the device could see which parts of the brain are active and communicate at the highest rate, based on heightened use of oxygen in the blood and elevated simultaneous occurrence of their activities.
The device is capable of identifying specific networks inside the brain and how they work together. The more unified they are, the more efficiently cognitive tasks are performed.
The investigators were surprised that the right and left hemispheres behaved differently regardless of which hand the participants used.
The right hemisphere was more highly incorporated in right-handed people, while it was even more powerful in the left-handed ones.
Medvedev and his team will continue to search for a reason why this occurs. He suggests brain scientists focus on the right hemisphere for the answer.
"Most brain theories emphasize the dominance of the left hemisphere especially in right handed individuals, and that describes the population of participants in these studies. Our study suggests that looking at only the left hemisphere prevents us from a truer understanding of brain function."
Written by Kelly Fitzgerald