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"Left Out" -- The Discovery Files

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New research counters a long-standing model of emotion in the brain, and shows that emotions like alertness and determination are housed in the right side of the brains of left-handed people. In fact, stimulating the left side of the brain in lefties and righties during "neural therapy" -- a treatment for anxiety and depression -- could be damaging for left-handed patients.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Right on, left out.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

Since the 1970s it's been believed that each hemisphere of the brain is specialized for one type of emotion. Emotions linked to approaching and engaging with the world like: happiness and pride, were considered strictly "left brain" while those associated with avoidance like: disgust and fear, resided in the right hemisphere. A new study out of Cornell University says that's "true" if one is right-handed. For lefties, they say it's all reversed!

The team believes emotion in the brain is not its own system but instead it's built on the neural systems for motor action. Meaning the location of a person's neural systems for emotion is different, depending on whether they're left-handed, right-handed or in between.

The researchers tested their idea by stimulating the two sides of 25 participants' brains. Turned out when the righties were stimulated in the left hemisphere, they felt the expected boost in positive emotions. But the lefties felt that boost when the opposite hemisphere, the right one was stimulated and felt no change or less positive when stimulated on the left.

The study suggests neural therapy, which stimulates the left side of the brain to treat certain anxieties and depression could actually make a lefty feel worse.

Did they tell me as a righty why I have two left feet?

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