Your Brain's Hemispheres Keep Your Emotions in Check

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Your Brain's Hemispheres Keep Your Emotions in Check
When One Side of the Brain Takes Over

Scientists have actually seen firsthand what happens when the system of emotional balance provided by the brain's hemispheres breaks down. They've found that people who have had brain damage in the left hemisphere of the brain are at a higher risk for suicide because they're overwhelmed with negativity, while people who have had damage to the right hemisphere can be overly optimistic because they have trouble identifying negative emotions [source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke].

If you were to crack open your skull and take a look at the gray matter contained within it, you'd see that the brain appears to be divided into two equal-sized halves. These are your brain's hemispheres and, while they work together to keep you functioning, they each take responsibility for processing different types of information. The left side of your brain thinks in concrete ways, such as the literal meaning of words and mathematical calculations, while the right side thinks in more abstract ways, such as symbolism and gestures [source: Gutman].

Because the two sides of your brain process information differently, they work together to keep your emotions in check. Here's an easy way to explain it: The right hemisphere identifies, and the left hemisphere interprets. The right brain identifies negative emotions, like fear, anger or danger. It then alerts the left brain, which decides what to do by interpreting the situation and making a logical decision about how to act in response.

It's a great system, unless something happens and one side of the brain can't do its job. Without the left brain, the right brain would be overcome with negative emotions and not know how to respond to them. And without the right brain, the left brain would not be as good at identifying negative emotions [source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke].

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