Hemisphere Theory

While it is true that the old pop psychology of hemisphere differences has been shown to be largely false, it does not follow that the topic itself has been somehow ‘debunked’ – just that our first thoughts have been superseded, as they were likely to be. People who think the topic is no longer important are stuck in the past; and themselves embrace a myth that is well overdue debunking. They live in a self-perpetuating vacuum: because they just ‘know there’s nothing in it’ without bothering to acquaint themselves with the facts, they remain ignorant of the enormous body of mainstream research on the topic. For example I refer to approx. 5,500 papers in The Matter with Things alone: the argument that there’s ‘not enough evidence’ might have been true forty years ago, but it won’t wash now.

Two brief questions. If there is no science behind brain lateralisation, why was Germany’s most prestigious science prize, the Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz-Preis, awarded to Onur Güntürkün in 2013 precisely for his recent research on brain lateralisation? And why is Michael Levin, Distinguished Professor in the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology, Boston, one of the world’s most prominent researchers in molecular biology, engaging with me in a series of recorded discussions on lateralisation, a long-standing research interest of his?

Since I have been asked for opinions on my work, here are a few from important figures in the field of biology, neuroscience and physics.

‘The best survey on the left and right hemispheres of the brain that exists – a magnificent scientific survey. It’s a masterpiece. I think there’ll be lots of discussion around it and amplifications and qualifications and so on, but his main thrust is extremely important. This is a historically important book, and I am sure he will last. He will be revered in future generations – there’s no question.’ —Professor Colwyn Trevarthen, collaborator with Nobel Prize-winner Roger Sperry at Caltech, and one of the world’s most distinguished living researchers on the perceptuomotor and cognitive functions of the cerebral hemispheres, in a filmed interview in 2016

‘I believe that, at a deep level, McGilchrist is right. In the hemispheres, with their differing components and capabilities, lie different facets of the personality …’ [On The Master and his Emissary] ‘I think there are only two options. In thirty years it will either be the bible of neuroscience –or it will be forgotten. I don’t think there is any other option.’ —Professor Onur Güntürkün, winner of the Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz-Preis for his work on brain lateralisation, interviewed in Die Zeit, and in a filmed interview in 2016

‘Really superb! Best book on laterality I have ever read, with profound implications for the nature of consciousness … a true masterpiece–a synthesis of decades of pondering a vision that coaxes us to question many conventional “wisdoms”. The best book I’ve read in the past decade … ground-breaking.’ —Professor Jaak Panksepp, world authority on the neuroscience of affect, author of the classic works Affective Neuroscience (OUP), and A Textbook of Biological Psychiatry

‘A marvellous and highly original synthesis of ideas on how the division of labour between the two brain hemispheres can provide key insights into human nature – it’s odd that such an important subject has been neglected.’ —Professor VS Ramachandran, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Head of the Neurosciences Graduate Program at the University of California

‘A wonderful book – broad in scope and full of incisive detail. It should be required reading for any serious student of human psychology. For researchers involved in hemisphere studies, the historical/cultural context provided by McGilchrist is essential background.’ —Professor Norman Cook, author of The Brain Code: Mechanisms of Information Transfer and the Functions of the Corpus Callosum

‘Stunning … It’s a masterpiece.’ —Professor Todd Feinberg, neuroscience of laterality researcher, and Professor of Neurology & Psychiatry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, NY

‘Every point made is referenced … The evidence in support of these conclusions is presented fully and extremely well … the breadth of the author’s knowledge is nothing less than extraordinary …This is, indeed, a fascinating book that will stimulate debate and ideas.’ —Professor Lesley Rogers, world authority on lateralisation in animals, writing in Laterality

‘Undoubtedly the best and profoundest description of the anatomy and function of our two brain hemispheres and of the different ways of our “being in the world” … a great achievement and an enormous gift.’ —Professor Jürg Kesselring, Professor of Neurology, University of Bern, and Neuroscience Center Zürich (ZNZ), University of Zürich

‘I know of no better exposition of the current state of functional brain neuroscience.’ —Professor WF Bynum, former head of the Academic Unit of the Wellcome Centre, writing in the Times Literary Supplement (TLS)

‘A dazzling masterpiece’ —Professor Norman Doidge, neuroplasticity researcher, and author of The Brain That Changes Itself

‘A wonderful book about brain function and its wider implications.’ —Professor Michael McIntyre, FRS, Professor of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Cambridge

Other physicists and mathematicians who have met me, or contacted me, to express interest in my work include: Professor Bernard Carr (U London), Dr Jonathan Hall (U Adelaide), Professor Tom McLeish (U York), Dr George Burnett-Stuart (U Oxford), Professor Arthur Gibson (U Cambridge), Dr Paul Julienne (U Maryland), Professor Bernard Schutz FRS (U Cardiff), Professor Philip Goyal (U Albany).