From corporate team-building activities to art instruction books, the concept that the different halves of the human brain govern different skills and personality traits is a popular mainstay.
Too bad it's not true.
A new study from University of Utah neuroscientists uses brain imaging to debunk the idea that the left side of the brain controls logic and analytical thinking while the right side is responsible for creativity and thoughtfulness.
"It's just one of those urban myths," said Jeff Anderson, a U. professor of radiology and lead author of the study published in the journal PLOS ONE online Thursday.
There is a grain of truth to it the left side of the brain is more involved with language and the right evaluates the outside world, Anderson said.
But in an analysis of a database of resting brain scans of 1,011 people between the ages of 7 and 29, he and a team of researchers found no evidence of one side of the brain working alone more often, or people having a stronger neural network on one side over the other.
Though some connections are stronger than others, those tend to be localized rather than lateral.
Researchers used scans taken with functional connectivity MRI analysis, a sort of multi-dimensional brain imaging that takes a five to 10 minute scan of a person's brain. It tells scientists not only what regions of the brain are in use but how they connect with each other.
"Certainly, there are personality differences. Some people are more analytical, other people might have more creative thought processes," Anderson said, "but they aren't really using one side of the brain or the other."
The study emerged as part of Anderson's work studying how brain wiring differs in people suffering from autism, Down syndrome and other disorders.