Left Brain, Right Brain Dominance Tied To Ear Preference In Cell Phone Users

When it comes to using your cellphone, are you a righty or a lefty?

A provocative new study from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit suggests that the brains of cellphone users show subtle differences based on which ear users typically use to listen to their phones: people who tend to listen using the right ear usually have brains in which the left hemisphere dominates—and vice versa.

In general, the brain's left hemisphere seems to specialize in “processing language and producing speech, carrying out sequential processing of information, focusing attention, and inhibiting negative emotions,” according to the website of the Dana Foundation, a brain research organization. In contrast, the right hemisphere seems to specialize in “simultaneous processing of information, attending in a broad or diffuse way, forming and using spatial maps, and expressing intense emotions.”

What does that mean in simple English? There's some evidence that so-called "left-brain-dominant" people are more analytical while "right-brain-dominant" people are more creative, study author Dr. Michael Seidman, director of the hospital's division of otologic and neurologic surgery, told The Huffington Post in an email.

So does that mean you can make inferences about your intellectual and emotional tendencies by noting whether you’re right- or left-eared when it comes to cellphone use? And can noting others’ cellphone use habits enable you to gauge their intellectual and emotional tendencies?

Alas, it’s not quite that simple.

“I do not believe I can really comment on emotional differences,” Dr. Seidman said when asked about the study, adding that the evidence to support differences between right-brain and left-brain people is “limited.” But if you're left-brain-dominant and right-handed, “you could argue that you might process better in the right ear,” he said, acknowledging that this was speculation but that it “makes sense.”

No matter what, the study has some important implications. For one thing, it may point to a lower-cost, less invasive way to “map’ the brains of neurological patients, Dr. Seidman said in a written statement released b the hospital. Currently, patients’ brains are mapped using the so-called Wada test, in which an injected anesthetic is used to deaden parts of the brain.

The study also adds to the body of evidence supporting the safety of cellphones. It showed that about 70 percent of cellphone users habitually listen to their phone with their right ears. If cellphones did increase the risk for cancer, Seidman said in the statement, malignancies of the head, brain and neck would be far more common on the right side. But, he said, that’s not the case.

The study, based on the results of an online survey completed by more than 700 people, is scheduled to be presented in San Diego on Feb. 26 at a meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology.

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