Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Capstone Files

The function of hemispheric asymmetry in regards to perceptions, cognition, and emotions.

The intent of this capstone project is to study the hemispheric-specific traits of the brain to identify how these traits affect perception, cognition, and emotion. It is hypothesized that a counselor could theoretically increase rapport with their client by having a greater understanding of how the brain affects the mind. To determine whether this idea has any possible scientific basis, a literary review of professional books and journal articles dealing with brain hemispheres and mental functions was conducted. Research was focused on perception, cognition, emotion, concept of self and ways to identity hemispheric dominance. Personality was also an aspect originally considered, but none of the literature reviewed made any reference to it.

Main Paper

The hemispheres take on many hats as they work together, outside of the commonly repeated visuospatial and verbal ones. In regards to perception, the left hemisphere acts as a reporter, keeping an ear out for language patterns and detailed information. It looks for past occurrences and hints to future events. The right hemisphere acts as a sentry, constantly scanning the surroundings and looking for anomalies that may signal a threat to the body. Aware of the present moment, it notes distances and forms. When it comes to cognition, the left hemisphere is a bricklayer, breaking down information into smaller parts and arranging it into analytical series. Where gaps appear, the left will cover them with its own version of mental mortar. The right hemisphere acts as a project manager, on alert for mistakes and incongruities, while calculating the relationships of the elements involved. In memory, the right hemisphere cues the left hemisphere with generalities, so it can retrieve memories and link them in sequential order. Emotionally, the left hemisphere relies on the past to guide it, using the models and scripts it has created. While the right hemisphere focuses more on current physical and emotional sensations.

In regards to helping counselors relate to their clients better, this data won’t necessarily lead to a better therapeutic alliance. However, there are other ideas that counselors can take from this information to help their clients. Dr. Taylor’s recovery from her stroke shows how controlling one’s emotional environment can help their psychological well-being. Another lesson from her experience that has not been mentioned here yet, is the fact that when her left brain began to recover some of its scripts, she made a conscious effort not to let the negative ones reassert themselves. Her gestalt therapist probably deserves some credit for this, but it is obvious that the ability to say, “this is just my brain trying to do its thing,” did her a lot of good. When Dr. Taylor finds herself in a mental loop that is harshly critical, counter-productive, or out of control, she gives herself 90 seconds to let the emotional/physical response dissipate before re-evaluating the situation and acting. (Taylor, 2007) Being able to give some clients this self-knowledge might enable them to work with their mental processes, instead of fighting them in unproductive ways.

There is obviously a need for further study in this area. For instance, it is possible that learning styles may positively impact the therapeutic alliance, but the field needs more valid tests and research. The idea that false memories can be detected needs to be tracked longitudinally to check for the effects of memory fading. In the areas of depression, anxiety, and BDD, researchers are only scratching the surface. It would be very interesting to see if training techniques that help stroke victims would also help people with these disabilities.


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