MY BOOK


After 20 years of research and writing, my book, In Their Right Minds: The Lives and Shared Practices of Poetic Geniuses (2015) Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, is available from the publisher in a very well-made paperback edition. Initially a #1 Hot New Release in Neuropsychology and Poetry/Literary Criticism on Amazon.com, it can be acquired on Amazon in most countries, either in print, a Kindle edition, or both. If you are interested in consciousness, creativity, poetry, psychology, and/or the paranormal, I think you will find it an illuminating read.

The Minds of the Poets: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes


A different entrée into the minds of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes comes via Previc’s (2009)[i] theory of the dominant neurotransmitters in men and women. In his view, the male mind tends towards left dominance with its abundant dopaminergic connections and a “detached,” “exploitative,” “linear” orientation towards future time and distant space; while the female mind is more right-hemispheric and serotonergic, interested in maintaining a close circle with communal, empathetic ties. In a nutshell, one could evoke the Paleolithic hunter versus the nurturing mother model. Previc’s theory is in many ways convincing, but, as with McGilchrist’s The Master and the Emissary, it does not take into account atypical right-hemispheric dominance, with switched hemispheric functions, or temporary reversals of normal linguistic dominance during manic states, or brain volume changes due to head injury or early trauma on the left that can release the right from the left’s inhibitory signals or vice versa.


Nonetheless, Ted Hughes possessed many traits of Previc’s highly dopaminergic male. Hughes was a hunter, with disheveled, unwashed ways. He was both highly intelligent and hypersexual, more interested in sexual conquest than in maintaining close bonds. He was thrilled at the birth of his daughter, Frieda, but less enthralled when his son, Nicholas, arrived. His lover, Assia Wevill, had a child, Shura, whom he never recognized as his daughter. He will abandon Assia, as he did Sylvia Plath. He will maintain a relationship with Brenda Hedden, marry Carol Orchard, then spend their honeymoon period with Hedden, dangling her along until she breaks it off.[ii] Brenda’s remarks exemplify the highly dopaminergic male’s need for conquest, not domesticity, which would also explain Hughes’s intense identification with Robert Graves’s theory of the White Goddess who abhors domesticity:
           
"He was a real hunter. The moment I drew away from him and became independent, I was more attractive in his eyes, and he chased me and pleaded that I would come back. It was the same with Assia: when she tried to break away and was out of his reach, he became motivated. But, when they were together, he did terrible things. I feared I would end up like her, and resisted his temptations. Her terrible suicide saved my life."[iii]


   Plath was highly intelligent, ambitious and sexually motivated as well, the dopaminergic side of her. But, living in a time when women were considered “sluts” if they acquiesced to male sexual overtures, she was very conflicted. She labeled her first experience a rape and had to go to the hospital for hemorrhaging, yet still went out with the man again. There were more men, sometimes involving violent sex, to whom she consented, whether as punishment or titillation.[iv] After marriage, she often commented on her “good” love-making sessions with her husband, considered crucial to their marriage, even though there was often violence involved there too.[v]

   Plath’s positive serotonergic side came out in maintaining a tidy home, cooking delicious meals and nurturing her children, while remaining deeply bound to her husband. She was initially attracted to Hughes because of his brute strength as well as his poetry, having long acknowledged her need to be dominated by a strong male who would not be jealous of her own ambitions. Only he seemed large enough, both physically and mentally, to fit her fantasy. In fact, during her marriage, as her serotonergic self waxed, her dopaminergic creativity waned. The final abandonment will spawn her best poetry with fierce words and bold imagery, suggesting a dopamine-mediated manic shift. Never particularly religious, she will now claim that God is speaking through her, another sign of mania, according to Previc.

  In addition to the abandonment, other physical and psychological factors must be implicated in her final tragedy: genetic predisposition to a mood disorder; the loss of her father at age 8, which will be felt and filtered again and again with each rejection, failed relationship and abandonment; badly administered ECT treatment; therapy which overplayed maternal hatred and underplayed the father’s role; a miscarriage; an appendectomy; post-partum depression; an upper-respiratory illness; some negative  reviews of The Bell Jar; long bouts of waiting by her window for Hughes to reappear; and, possibly, side effects from a new antidepressant. Her British doctor, John Horder, called her "pathologically depressed" and abnormally sensitive (Alexander, p. 325).

  In the end, Plath was coping with the coldest winter in London since the early 19th century, with intermittent loss of light, heat and no telephone, plus an altercation with and loss of her au pair. Despite the urgency and publishing potential of the fiery new Ariel poems, an upcoming assignment for the BBC and a slated meeting with her British editor that day, she commits suicide. One would be tempted to say that her depressive side got the upper hand, but her odd behavior on the night of the suicide, as recounted by her downstairs neighbor, Trevor Thomas, suggests, rather, a manic shift. Wanting to pay for stamps he had given her that night,  she tells him "Oh! but I must I must pay you or I won't be right with my conscience before God, will I?" Ten minutes later, when Thomas finds her still in the hallway, he says he'll call their mutual Dr. Horder. Plath replies, "Oh, no please, don't do that. I'm just having a marvelous dream, a most wonderful vision." Perhaps it was in some kind of waking dream state that she made her preparations to die. Yet, true to her serotonergic self, she also prepared a small meal of milk and buttered bread for her children who slept safely behind a door sealed off from the deadly gas fumes that would engulf her alone (quotes from Alexander, p. 329). 

  Plath's mother wrote these poignant words at the end of her Letters Home

“Her physical energies had been depleted by illness, anxiety and overwork, and although she had for so long managed to be gallant and equal to the life-experience, some darker day than usual had temporarily made it seem impossible to pursue.” 


  Hughes will come to blame a triple threat: Plath’s mother, her therapist, and an unnamed friend for poisoning his wife’s mind against him. In a late poem, he questions his wife: “What was poured in your ears / While you argued with death? / Your mother wrote: ‘Hit him in the purse.’ / . . . And from your analyst: / ‘Keep him out of your bed’ / . . . / What did they plug into your ears / That had killed you by daylight on Monday?” (Howls & Whispers). But a final blow to her was the inscription she found in a new copy of a red Oxford Shakespeare during their last meeting in his flat. Assia had replaced what Sylvia had furiously rent when she first discovered their adultery. This lover would be remorseless when learning of the wife's demise. 

  Hughes himself claimed the relationship with his wife had been "almost completely repaired" before the fatal day (in Koren and Negev). One will never know what occurred between Sylvia and Ted during their last brief encounter on the evening of February 8 at her own flat in Yeats's old house; but, on returning to her friend Jillian Becker's, who was watching the children, she appeared distinctly different from her formerly sobbing self, now "direct" and "purposeful" (in Alexander, p. 328).

  Whatever the constellation of events, one can only wish that Plath had waited, had not succumbed to that darker day, or brighter, if the manic hypothesis prevails. Acknowledged and consoled by the recognition that would follow, she might well have flourished. In 1982, she received the Pulitzer Prize for her Collected Poems along with the enduring adoration of so many, many others.



[i] See Previc (2009), The Dopaminergic Mind in Human Evolution and History (UK: Cambridge UP).
[ii] See Koren and Negev (2006), Lover of Unreason: Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath’s Rival and Ted Hughes’ Doomed Love (UK: De Capo Press) for evidence of Hughes’s callous ways with women. In a letter to his brother, Gerald, Hughes “confessed that he had finally found it impossible to stay married to Sylvia, especially because of her ‘particular death-ray quality,’ and that he was pleased to have left her (ibid., p. 110)."
[iii] Ibid., p. 221.
[iv] Think Sabina Speilrein and Jung.
[v] Alexander (1991), Rough Magic: A Biography of Sylvia Plath (New York: Viking) provides many examples of the “rough magic” in her sex life.

Consciousness of the Future at the TSC


The Toward a Science of Consciousness (TSC) Conference has been going strong since 1994. Faithful followers and newcomers are equally aware that consciousness studies are still evolving, moving closer, albeit elusively, toward an understanding of what consciousness is and how it arises. No one claims it’s some sort of brain substance: it's a process, not a thing and it definitely arises through interaction with others and the environment. What’s nice about this conference is how it explores both the hard scientific and philosophical matters—How does consciousness arise? Do we have free will?—and the other phenomena, harder to prove —Does consciousness survive death? Can we foresee the future (precognition)? Can acts in the future affect the past (retrocausation)? 

The large gathering includes neuroscientists, philosophers, psychologists, neuropsychologists, anesthesiologists, spiritual types, survival of death advocates and literary people (like me, although a minority). I heard a talk on consciousness in Virginia Woolf this year and had a pleasant interchange with the speaker, a philosopher, afterwards. There was an interesting mix this year of old codgers with dodgy ideas and young things who spoke articulately and with ease at the podium. 

I was especially interested in hearing Daryl Bem’s research on precognition, a psi phenomenon claiming anomalous information or an energy transfer from the future is possible. I’ve experienced it myself whether in dreams, through imagery, or as a startling command in a relaxed moment as a future happening jolting me to consciousness with a clarity beyond words.

Dean Radin’s Quantum Entanglement, Larry Dossey’s The Science of Premonitions and Rupert Sheldrake’s Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home are works already extent in the field. Other researchers, I learned, sometimes just throw out their data rather than put their “weird science” results out there. Bem, though, claimed he was geriatric enough not to worry about his reputation. His method was to tell his college student volunteers that they were in a clairvoyance test. Then he showed them neutral, negative or erotically stimulating pictures. The results showed higher arousal in the students before the negative or erotic pictures were displayed even though the students had no way of knowing which picture the computer would choose. The clever and hilarious Stephen Colbert learned of Bem’s research and invited him on the show to talk about his so-called “Time-traveling porn.”

So, yes, Bem was testing the precognitive detection of erotic stimuli. He determined that the extroverts, the high stimulus seekers, did better on the test: 53% vs. the random 50%, which is significant. The same students were also better at precognitively avoiding negative pictures. The conference attendees seemed very receptive to Bem’s research. David Chalmers said people will claim it is sloppy work or fraud, if they’re not inclined to accept the results. Stu Hameroff said a lot of positive results are being suppressed; at another moment, he said we’ve had backward time effects for thirty years. Hameroff had explained this possibility through quantum consciousness, or “quantiousness” in a previous talk of his own. Both highly influential researchers, the former a philosopher and the latter an anesthesiologist, were the original founders of the Toward a Science of Consciousness conference.

Near the end of Bem's session, a woman in the first row raised her hand and said, “Unless you’ve experienced this phenomenon firsthand, you’re not likely to believe it.” She went on to explain how she met the man who would become her husband and instantly knew they would marry. Bem said, “I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard like this and I don’t pooh pooh them any more.”

The previous evening I had explained to a young conference attendee, whose task was to explain free will in a poster session the next evening, my own precognition story. Sitting on a park bench during my college days, I saw a student walk by and instantly knew that I would marry him, even though we had never dated and I had only met him once a few years before. I did indeed marry him several years later, despite intervening events that might well have derailed my fate. Here in the present, the young, "free will" guy from the night before, now sitting a few rows up, turned towards me. I gave him a thumbs up.

I’d like to see consciousness studies take more into account the “anecdotal” stories that seem to confirm that psi events do occur. As it stands, researchers are required to use scientifically verifiable, repeatable experiments, using random number or image generators, to prove that precognition or retrocausation exist. Why not just listen to the stories of people who have actually experienced the startling phenomena, a method in vogue in the 19th century but, regrettably, no longer in use. I’m not saying it’s all real or that everybody can do it. But close couplings and highly emotional stimuli seem to defy time and space somehow--even if it's just the distance between two heads. I’ve written about this before and you can find my article here, published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies. I might add that there was an absolutely convincing session on remote viewing at the conference. Hameroff, by the way, stands by the theory that consciousness can exist outside of the body at higher frequencies.

Hughes, Plath and Shakespeare: A Twinned Tale of the Mythic Feminine




In the photo on the left, we can see that Ted Hughes was a right-handed poet; yet, in the second photo, his arms are folded across his chest with the left hand up. Possible mixed dominance, along with early trauma, may explain his penchant for poetry and the paranormal. Looking at his childhood, we find a distant mother; a silent father, traumatized by his experiences in war; a favored older brother, Gerald. A fear of female engulfment with a need for ever-renewed female collaboration mark Hughes's entire creative life. This conflict could be traced back to attachment issues.
   
Furthermore, Hughes’s mother was considered a psychic and he believed that he had inherited her abilities. Whereas she had premonitory visions and angelic visitations, he had what he deemed prophetic dreams. Early on, Ted claimed the image of the bloody hand of a fox on a paper he was writing at Cambridge convinced him to read archeology and anthropology, rather than English literature. In another dream, an angel had shown him a small square of satin, which he later came to believe was the same material that lay under his dead wife’s head in her casket. [I have no aversion to the notion of answers and warnings in dreams, as I have received them myself (cf. Hearing the Voice Getting it Right)
   
Hughes also cultivated the paranormal through hypnosis, trance, and meditative exercises. He fancied himself a shaman and believed a poet’s future self could dictate to him in the present. [If we accept the latter, a notion that I find very appealing, even if not scientifically provable,* it could be one way of explaining a dissociative sense of dictation.]

As a young man, Hughes was in thrall to poet and classicist Robert Graves’s notion of the White Goddess, the mythic female who inspires poets, yet demands their sacrifice in return for immortality. He was taken in enough to write an entire book called Shakespeare and The Goddess of Complete Being, a long, complex attempt to order the bard's entire opus based on how the mythic feminine is portrayed in his plays
   
The wild boar goring Adonis on the cover represents the mortal wound inflicted on the Hero. Hughes believed, in line with this mythic scenario, that a major trauma was needed to confer special knowledge on the poet. According to Hughes, Shakespeare's personal trauma was the “tragic error” of abandoning his wife in Stratford while he went off to London, compounded at the societal level by the suppression of the Catholic tradition in England. Both devalued the Feminine. Shakespeare’s visionary poetry, then, erupted at the confluence of these major crises and was aided by his adherence to a mystical school of thought (Hermetic Occult Neoplatonism) that used ritual magic to glean wisdom and clairvoyance from hallucinatory figures. [Think Jung.]

Hughes uses a hemispheric model to explain the mythic paradigm in Shakespeare’s entire corpus. The old Goddess myth stands on the right—archaic, matriarchal, emotional, and body-based—while the Goddess-destroying myth leans left—new, patriarchal, rational, and idealized. The Female of the right is “inseparable from the womb memory, infant memory, nervous system and the chemistry of the physical body, possessed by all the senses and limitless”; the Female of the left is “Puritan . . . idealized, moralized and chaste.” 

What happens next is madness: the Hero murders his own beloved, supplanting the old “King must die” mentality of ancient Goddess religion with “the beloved Female must die” instead. The Hero splits the Female into two diametrically opposed aspects: Sacred Bride/Divine Mother versus Queen of Hell.

Hughes asserts that there is a basic biological truth underlying the new patriarchal formula. First, the Hero is driven mad by the terrifying fact that all of life is doomed. Second, the growing boy needs to overthrow the “possessive control of the Female,” that is, his mother, in order to become a man. Likewise, the mythic hero must overthrow the Mother Goddess because of her “magical, terrifying, reproductive powers”; “the occult power of her paralysing love”; and unleash the “uncontrollable new sexual energy which is searching for union with the unknown Female.” In other words, the conquering god appropriates the Mother Goddess’s power while assuring female subservience and his own sexual liberty. This phase was not to last. Hughes sees a great shift in Shakespeare’s plays coinciding with his mother's death in 1608: from this point onwards, saving, rather than killing off, the Female becomes his credo. Restoration of the Divine Female heals the crime against her, so that it cannot occur again.

In fixating on Shakespeare’s oeuvre, ferreting out the underlying myths that spelled out his doom and resuscitation, Hughes had found a twinning of his own sad tale. Shakespeare’s “flight from his wife, and his prolonged separation from her, is one of the dominant unsettled questions of his solitary existence,” Hughes proclaimed. Likewise, his flight from Sylvia Plath and her subsequent suicide, was only the first in a series of deaths that would encompass a man’s most intimate female relations: a wife; a lover, Assia Wevill; their daughter, Shura; and his own mother. Female corpses of Shakespearean proportion piled up at the feet of a broken, depressed poet. 

Hughes says that Shakespeare “examines” and “corrects” his life by resuscitating the fallen female with “atonement, redemption and reconsecration in a sacred marriage of  ‘new-born’ souls.”  Likewise, Hughes will attain the status of one of the great poets of the twentieth century and Poet Laureate of England. The Female-affirming final sequence of Shakespeare’s oeuvre represents for Hughes a “crowning illumination” because it attempts to cure the bard’s personal wound as well as the religious rift in his society. Perhaps Hughes's Remains of Elmet and Birthday Letters had a similar effect on him, restoring the beloved mother and wife to him, without the curse of Medusa’s snare. Mother and wife take on their separate posthumous lives, extolled and molded by the poet’s imagination, freeing him, at last, from their mythic hold on him. 


Plath says, “God is speaking through me” in Hughes’s poem “The God.” The Divine "Other" filled the vacuum left by her husband,  who had replaced her father. In his Birthday Letters, Hughes neatly lays his wife’s soul to rest, on that little square of dream satin, producing some of his finest poetry along with the myth of his own innocence.


*See http://dbem.ws/FeelingFuture.pdf, in which Daryl J. Bem presents new scientific evidence on precognition and premonition. Next week, I will be attending the 2012 Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference in Tucson, Arizona, where this Cornell University professor will be speaking, along with Deepak Chopra and many others researchers and practitioners, at the interface of science and spirituality.


Smiley Face Blog Responses

I finally sorted out the "smiley face" responses from their different venues: my own Facebook page, My Left-handed Friends and Jung Hearted Pages as well as the comments on my blog. There were 32 respondents, but not everyone did the further short test for folded arms, foot- and eye-dominance and hand position in writing found in The Eye of the Beholder. Also, two people were unable to perceive the happier guy, so our base is down to 30 responders, with 18 who responded fully.



In Julian Jaynes’s test of 1000 people, 80% of right-handers chose "B" and 55% of left-handers chose "A." The “expected” choice for a typically organized brain would be "B" because the right hemisphere would be judging the facial expression by the left side of the face. Jaynes predicted that people who were bodily left-lateralized in every way would be even more likely to chose "A."

In our study of 30 people, 17 or 57% chose "B" and 13 or 43% chose "A."

Out of the 19 people who responded fully, 10 were right-handed and 9 were left-handed.

Of these 9 left-handers, 4 were left-lateralized across the board. Yet, 2 picked "A" and 2 picked "B." The "A" pickers would be judging the face with their left hemispheres, as Jaynes predicted, with hemispheric functions presumably switched; whereas the "B" pickers, me included, would be using their right hemisphere for facial recognition as well as for language.

Of the 10 right-handers, only 2 were right lateralized across the board. One picked "A" (atypically) and the other "B."

I don’t know what conclusions we can draw from these results other than the fact that there is a fair amount of mixed dominance amongst my friends, virtual or otherwise. In addition to questioning that the extremely left lateralized would more likely pick "A," as Jaynes had said, I wanted to test the conclusion of the Scientific American Mind article that people with right-hemispheric dominance were more likely to believe in or experience paranormal phenomena (see again The Eye of the Beholder). Only two spoke up here: one was left-handed and the other mixed, adding left-handed me, that makes 3. So far so good. Are there any more of you out there???


The Eye of the Beholder


In 1976, Princeton psychologist Julian Jaynes attributed the voices of the gods to the right hemisphere in pre-literate civilizations, claiming that a residual dissociative effect could be found in poets, prophets, musicians, the hypnotized and schizophrenics of the modern age. In his book, he included drawings of faces with lop-sided smiles, mirror images of each other, that he had presented to 1,000 people in a test.

                                            A                              B


Jaynes wanted to test which hemisphere was judging the facial expression. Reading direction, apparently, is independent of reading a facial expression. In 1976, as today, research has shown that recognizing facial expressions is primarily a right-hemispheric function.* Jaynes found that 80% of right-handers chose B, while 55% of left-handers chose A, showing that more than half of the latter were using their left hemispheres to read the facial expression. He also thought that if you were completely left-lateralized, left-handed in every way, you would be even more likely to chose A.

I found this curious because I am left-handed in every way, plus left eye and foot dominant, yet I chose B without hesitation. It seems to me that Jaynes was not taking into account atypical lateralization. He may have been assuming that if you are left-handed your hemispheric functions would be switched so that your language was on the right and visuo-spatial functions, including recognition of faces and facial expressions, were on the left. In fact, we now know that there can be a number of different configurations for brain functions, including both language and visuo-spatial functions on the right. So, an extremely left-side lateralized person, like I am, could still chose B.

When I posted these images on Facebook, I had just read an article in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of Scientific American Mind. The author, Richard Wiseman, was saying that we are ALL in some sense “Wired for Weird,” ready to believe in ghosts or see facial images where there are none, using our natural pattern recognition, agency-detection and facial recognition abilities. However, people with a highly active right hemisphere are more likely to claim they are clairvoyant, telepathic, have dream precognition or see faces in unlikely places. Beginning in the late 1990’s, Wiseman reported, neuropsychologist Peter Brugger has been finding that right-hemisphere dominant people, judged by a variety of means, are indeed more likely to believe in and/or have experienced paranormal events. Other researchers have also come to this same conclusion.

As it must be pretty clear by now, I’m very interested in the creative abilities and special skills of people who are right-hemisphere dominant for language. When I first presented this test to My Left-handed Facebook Friends** and general Facebook Friends, 16 people responded and many more since then. In the initial test, the responses split right down the middle. Eight people chose A and 8 people chose B. Six lefties chose A, as Jaynes had predicted, using their right hemisphere. The lefties and right-handers who chose B would have been judging the smile from the right. The right-handers who chose A were atypical, using their left hemisphere to judge the facial expression.

As the facial expression test isn't really testing for over-all dominance, I would like people who have taken it, and any others who would like to join in, to take it one step further. If you report your results in the comment section, please let me know as well if you are left- right- or mixed-handed. Here are 4 simple things to do:





  1. Cross your arms across your chest. Which hand is up?
  2. If you play a sport, do you use your left or right hand/foot?Walk up stairs. Which foot do you place up first?
  3. Make a triangle with your index fingers and thumbs together in front of your face. Look at an object in the distance closing each eye alternately. Which eye makes the object appear in the center of the triangle.
  4. When you write, is your hand position facing up or do you curl in your hand? For example,  President Obama sharply curls in his left hand; Clinton writes straight up. How about when you eat? Do you curl in your hand? Sometimes right-handers curl in their hands also, so they are probably right dominant for language. One of my sons, who benefits from my left-handed genes, curls in his right hand when he writes and eats.
Thanks to any and all who take part in my test! Please also let me know if you believe in or have ever experienced any paranormal events, like telepathy or precognition.




* [R]ecent research suggests that the right hemisphere may be best at processing patterns like voice contour, facial expression, aspects of size and quantity, gestalt aspects of the world which, from a developmental perspective, represent the way children begin to learn about cognitive areas like music, art, mathematics or language. This quote is from a great up-to-date article.
** Now a Facebook page called "Right Mind Matters" for all people with enhanced right dominance, whether left-, right-, or mixed handed.

Born That Way

In my last blog, What's Right for You May not be Right for Others, I introduced Iain McGilchrist's notion of the 5% of the worldwide population who have atypical lateralization for language. Whereas his book, The Master and His Emissary, is so inclusive in describing left/right hemispheric differences within the brain and in successive generational proclivities, from my point of view, he left out the best bit about the highly creative minority of right-hemisphere or mixed-dominant individuals. 

In this post, I'm going to discuss handedness and atypical lateralization for language, a predisposing factor for psychosis. The information is based on the newest research articles found in the medical textbook, Language Lateralization and Psychosis (2009), edited by Iris E. C. Sommer and René S. Kahn. The other names that appear below are contributing chapter authors or researchers they cite in this text. 



First of all, left-right asymmetry, whether in the brain (cerebral) or in the body (visceral), happens during the baby's development in the womb. The leftward asymmetry (greater than right size) that produces left-hemispheric dominance for language occurs between weeks 29  and 31 of gestation. The bodily effects are evident later on. Your feet, for instance, are probably different in size, the right is the larger foot in males, and the left in females. My left hand is much longer than my right. Typical left-hemispheric cerebral dominance is not just found in humans: it is in animals too, stretching back phylogenetically several hundred million years. 

Children of two left-handed parents have a 50% chance of becoming left-handed, while for children of right-handed parents it's less than 10%. The language lateralization of the parents also determines to a large extent that of their children. I may be an anomaly with two right-handed parents and the only left-handed child amongst six siblings; but I'd say two of my sisters are right- or mixed-dominant despite their handedness. In furtherance of this scenario, I recently had dinner with a good friend and her teenage son. Both were right-handed. But, when I asked them to fold their arms across their chests, they both put the left hand up, showing some mixed-dominance. My friend is an actress and a singer and her son's father is left-handed; so, this makes sense for both mother and son. In fact, enhanced right-brain dominant folk seem to find each other as a quick tally of my friends attests. 

Great apes are typically right-handed and the parts of the brain used in human language, Broca's and Wernicke's areas, are associated with tool use in chimpanzees. So, grasping with the hand was probably the precursor for "grasping" an idea using language. Even birds use their feet preferentially: the right foot exerts strong force and the left uses fine manipulations. There is evidence that in preindustrial societies right-handedness only became apparent to researchers when analyzing the inhabitants' fine manipulations. Handedness specialist I. C. McManus says that “8% -10% of the population has been left-handed for at least the past 200,000 years or so.” This percentage has remained constant. Again, there are gender differences: men are 25% more likely to be left-handed than women. Compared to the 5% to 6% of right-handers who show RH language dominance, 30% to 35% of left-handers do.

Visuospatial functions are normally assigned to the right hemisphere. Birds too show right-eye (LH) superiority for discriminating visual patterns, left-eye (RH) for spatial tasks. It's well known that men have better visuospatial ability than women and this is because men are generally more left-brain dominant for language than women, whose language functions are more spread out, leaving less room for the visuospatial. But all combinations of language vs. visuospatial functions can occur: L/L, L/R, R/R. In women who are R/R like me,  their language function can practically eclipse their visuospatial ability. I have no map reading ability and am generally lost in environmental space. Forget the old adage that left-handers die sooner than righties. New research shows that “the very oldest respondents have a higher rate of left-handedness than those who are somewhat younger,” according to McManus.




Whereas an intolerance for left-handedness arose with the industrial revolution, as fine work needed to be done and equipment and writing pens were designed for right-handers, a French study by Faurie and Raymond (2004) showed that the rate of left-handedness has not actually changed since the Upper Paleolithic. France has been antipathetic to left-handedness, historically tying the left hand behind the back to force right-handedness. There are no left-handers in China, as it is forbidden. My European friends might be interested in the fact that the highest rates of left-handedness are in Britain, the Netherlands, and Belgium, I assume because of more tolerance. Yet, even if forced to write with the right hand, the bearer of the left-handed gene will carry it over to their own children while continuing to use the left for other non-writing functions.

                              
In this History of Left-handers, note that Eve is picking the apple 
    with her left (evil) hand

What about language lateralization and psychosis? 

Quoting Somers, Sommer and Kahn, "non-right-handed subjects, but not strong left-handers, had higher scores on schizotypy questionnaires than right-handed subjects. Mixed-handers showed a trend towards high schizotypy in comparison to left-handers." So, it's safer to be extremely left-handed than mixed, because the major language function is segregated to the right, not just increased language activity in the frontal and temporal areas of the right hemisphere that can account for hemispheric indecision and a predisposition to psychosis of the schizophrenic or bipolar variety. The authors state further that "bilateral language representation facilitates magical and delusional ideas by means of the more diffuse semantic activation to the right hemisphere compared to the left." Bilateral language representation is also associated with autism, dyslexia and ADHD.

In fMRI studies, right-handed thought-disordered patients showed activation in the right-hemisphere homolog of Wernicke’s area during speech production, while controls performing the same task showed left-lateralized activity, supporting Julian Jaynes's viewDiederen and Sommer studied 24 psychotic patients who actually experienced auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH) in the scanner. All were strongly right-handed and continued to experience AVH frequently despite using antipsychotic medication. The results showed increased activity in the right homolog of Broca's area, which the researchers connected to negative emotion and compared to inappropriate "release" language following damage or surgery to the left hemisphere. 

Overall, the studies indicate that decreased language activation on the left and increased activity on the right are associated with auditory hallucinations, while extreme left-handers are not prone to psychosis. Timothy Crow goes so far as to say that “schizophrenia is the price Homo sapiens pays for language (Crow, 1997a).” It's the lack of complete dominance, the failure to inhibit the non-dominant hemisphere that is problematic. Patients with the most severe hallucinations were the least leftward lateralized.

The final chapter by Clyde Francks lays the genetic blame on dad rather than mom. He claims that the same paternally inherited LRRTM1 gene associated with mixed/left-handedness, which suppresses the maternal gene, was also over-transmitted to schizophrenic patients in a large family study. Interestingly, he found the same father-child enhanced (roughly five times the mother's) genetic transmission in dyslexics.

These studies, of course,  do not paint the whole picture. The genetics are well described, but no mention is made of the traumatic incidents needed to trigger psychotic and/or dissociative episodes in those predisposed. The creative influence of increased right-hemispheric input is touched upon, especially as an argument for sustaining the genetic transfer of sometimes disabling mental illness, but not nearly enough. But then their lack is an opening for the kind of study I am doing on the genetics, early traumas and environmental influences on the minds of great poets, prophets and mediums whose voices have brought great art, guidance and shifting paradigms of consciousness to a general population less endowed for hearing them.