Most people have a dominant hand, a dominant foot and a dominant eye. And so it goes for the brain, and for most of us, the left hemisphere is dominant.
The school system generally rewards left-brained individuals, who think in a logical, linear fashion, and learn best through hearing. Right-brained people think in a non-linear, intuitive fashion, and learn best through seeing and feeling. At school, right-brained children will often be marked down for not showing the working used to reach their answers. What their teachers fail to realize is these children don't have the usual working to show, having reached the correct destination by an unorthodox route.
According to right-brain educators such as Glenn Doman and Makoto Shichida, accessing the right brain not only enables a child to learn more efficiently, it can even unlock genius-level abilities. It is not that right-brain teaching will give you a genius baby, but rather that there is a genius already inside every baby - if only we can access the abilities of the right brain.
What kind of genius babies are we talking about? Children with talents like speed-reading and photographic memory - and the seemingly limitless powers of recall associated with them. Kids with the ability to produce an accurate drawing of something only once glanced at, or tell instantly that the number of items being shown to them is 97 - and not 98 or 96. Prodigious musical talents and the ability of perfect pitch also rely on the use of the right brain.
Seeing like Einstein
If any of the above rings a bell, it is probably because you are familiar with the phenomenon of savants – autistic or otherwise mentally deficient individuals with genius-level skills in specific areas.
According to studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, both geniuses and savants show greater-than-average activation in the right hemisphere of the brain. The left brain is responsible for verbal processing, which explains why savants (who commonly have damage to the left brain) typically experience difficulties with language.
The right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for visual and spatial processing, and the ability to "see" problems in multiple dimensions is one of the most prodigious talents of the greatest physicists. Interestingly, Einstein not only possessed this ability, he also suffered from language delays in childhood, inviting suggestions that he was a savant.
So why can't we all use our right brain the way Einstein did? Our left-brain is dominant for a reason: by suppressing the activities of the right, it filters out a surfeit of data constantly bombarding our senses. This enables us to make sense of reality and avoid sensory overload. Without the left-brain filter, autism sufferers typically are hypersensitive to sensory stimuli and find ordinary social interactions overwhelming. The rest of us take for granted, for example, the ability to hold a conversation without being distracted by background noises. But because our perception of reality is controlled by the left brain, this means a great deal of the sensory input we receive is entering beneath the conscious radar, making it difficult to access that information at will.
The idea of right-brain teaching is to change both the way we learn and the way we recall data. The normal way to memorize information is to store it in our short-term memory (in the left brain) and use repetition to transfer it to our long-term memory (in the right brain). By bypassing the left-brain and accessing our long-term memory directly, we learn faster. We can also learn to recall information normally not accessible because it has been received on a subconscious level - say, through speed-reading. The only way to achieve this is by freeing the right hemisphere of the brain from its suppression by the left. In doing so, the right brain becomes activated - much as it is in a genius, savant, or young child!
Early Childhood: The Genius State
Learning with the left-brain requires conscious effort; right-brain learning happens subconsciously, and so effortlessly. In small children, the right brain is already activated - which helps explain how children soak up information like sponges. In small children (and savants and geniuses), the right brain is activated because it is dominant. This is because the right hemisphere of the brain develops before the left, remaining dominant until the age of three and a half.
As the brain gradually shifts from right- to left-hemisphere dominance, right-brain teaching will increasingly need to follow on from deep relaxation and visualization. These techniques enable students to enter an alpha wave or absorbent state, which is highly compatible with right-brain learning. This is the state genius babies are naturally in!
If you find the idea of a genius or savant in everyone far-fetched, consider the following study by the University of Sydney's Centre for the Mind. Director Allan Snyder uses harmless magnetic stimulation to temporarily switch off the left hemisphere of his brains - thereby unlocking savant-like abilities. In the minutes after receiving the stimulation, subjects perform measurably better at tasks such as drawing a picture from memory, or guessing a large number of dots flashed up on a computer screen.
Whereas Snyder was able only to temporarily elicit these special abilities, right-brain educators aim to enable the genius baby to retain her right-brain talents as she gets older. While grown-up Doman and Shichida children may no longer be able to perceive quantity, some do retain the ability to mentally solve mathematical equations of a complexity that would require most people to use a calculator.
Now that you understand the basics of right-brain learning, you can find out more about the Doman and Shichida programs. You can also discover how to teach your own genius baby reading or math at home using right-brain techniques.
BrillKids Inc. is a corporation that is passionate about what they do. And they're passionate about early childhood education and are big believers in the benefits of early learning. They believe that as parents, we can do a great deal to help our children fulfill their innate potential, while also ensuring that the learning process remains fun for both parent and child.