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The evolution of multitasking

Recently it was discovered that not only humans have an asymmetric or lateralized brain. Our brain is split up in a left and right hemisphere and each sphere is predominantly used for different tasks. A little fish, the minnow (Girardinus falcatus) was bred to have either a lateralized or non-lateralized brain.

When this fish was given the task to fetch food both the lateralized and non-lateralized specimens performed the task in the same time. When the threat of a predator was introduced the lateralized fish were much quicker. With one half of the brain they could keep an eye out on the predator while the other half kept itself busy with fetching food. The non-lateralized fish was hopelessly outclassed because it couldn't multitask in the same way and had to take turns eating and watching for predators.

Evolution favoured asymmetric brains because it allowed for multitasking. The brain hemispheres can't be completely split up in their function otherwise the right half could be looking for a predator when the left half could be eating, but fail to see a predator was coming from the that particular side.

However, we humans do not have to fear from predators anymore. There is no reason anymore not to complete a full lateralization of our brains. In Korea scientists have started a small breeding experiment involving humans to increase the lateralization of the human brain. A spokesperson of the Institute of Biotechnology in Seoul stated that a new breed of lateralized Koreans will put Korea back on the map of excellence and economic progress. No more need for sleeping; each hemisphere can take turns taking a nap. Doing two jobs at the same time! Listening to the wife with one side and watching football with the other! The list goes on and on.

We at the University of Life remain skeptical. Humans using 10% of their brain turned out to be a myth, and now we are on the road to use half our brain at best.

Source (unfortunately the journal Science has changed its formatting over time and the link doesn't work any more)

See also the next article that links asymmetric brains to the eternal battle between the sexes


Professor at the UOL

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