Do Lefties Have Better Memories?
In one surprising recent study aimed at making sense of human brain and memory development, Stephen Christman, PhD of the University of Toledo, Ohio, looked at memory as a function of right- and left-handedness.
When he asked right- and left-handed college students about their earliest memories, he discovered a marked difference: "The earliest memory for left-handers was age 3 years and 11 months, almost a year earlier than right-handers, who couldn't recall much before age 4 years and 7 months."
Why should left-handers have this edge? Simply put, they use both sides of their brain more equally. Brain-activity tests demonstrate that the corpus callosum (the area of the brain where messages get transmitted back and forth between the right and left sides) of the average left-handed person is 15 percent larger than in the average right-hander. That's because left-handed folks have bigger bundles of mediating fibers passing messages back and forth.
Our memories aren't stored in any one location in the brain. Rather, they are distributed throughout the brain and maintained by complex brain-cell connections. "The basic relation between memory and the two sides of the brain is that semantic memories are encoded and retrieved by the left hemisphere alone," explains Christman. "Recalling episodic, autobiographical memories requires interaction between the left- and right-brain hemispheres."
Holly Robinson, a mother of three, is a writer outside of Boston.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, August 2004.
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