Happy Left-Hander’s Day!

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It’s Left-hander’s Day!

Generally speaking, lefties are more likely to use both hands comfortably than righties are. Personally, I think that this is probably because it’s sometimes just easier to use the computer mouse as it is, or because steak restaurants tend to have table knives that are beveled to favor righties, or the scissors at the craft table are all righties, or the swipers on credit card machines are almost all built to favor use with a right hand, or whatever. (The Edinburgh Inventory is a ranking of how “handed” a person is. I’m personally about 40 points left of ambidextrous. Would you like to know where you rank? There’s a little test here.)

As it turns out, the habit of switching hands might be good for your brain.

It seems to be popularly suggested that using your non-dominant hand for everyday tasks builds additional connections and pathways in your brain.

Now, think of your brain like a library. Everything you know – from algebra to how to brush your teeth – is on a shelf in the Brain Library. A physical library has different pathways – main aisles and side aisles, shelves can usually be reached from either end, and sometimes even through the bookcases. Then, for whatever reason, the roof collapses! And you very much need some piece of information, but the main aisle is completely blocked. That’s quite all right – you know how to access the needed information by walking down a side aisle or reaching through the stacks. Those multiple pathways come in handy.

In the real world, brain damage and degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia are very similar to those roof cave-ins.

The more neural pathways you have, the less devastating that cave-in is. The damage is still there, to be sure, but you have taught your brain how to do things in different ways.

Give it a try. Go out and be sinister today! Try and be a lefty (even if just to brush your teeth) – your brain will thank you!
Note: I first encountered the brain-as-a-library analogy when listening to an episode of the podcast “Two Guys on Your Head.” (I’ll update when I’ve tracked down which one.) For the whole catalog:

http://kut.org/term/two-guys-your-head

Additional reference:

http://www.awakeningfromalzheimers.com/what-being-right-or-left-handed-says-about-alzheimers-risk/

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