My unusual brain


Well, I may be human but I wouldn’t say I’m ordinary…

I was slightly surprised that binaural brainwave entrainment seemed to work on me at all, even if just a tiny little bit. After all, my brain has been unusual as long as I can remember. Most notably, typical “right brain” talents are pretty much missing: The ability to draw, to keep a rhythm, to recognize faces. They are just not there. The rest of the brain can take up the slack to some degree: I will recognize faces eventually after seeing them often, just as I will recognize any other object that I’m around for a long time. But I’m just happy if I can remember my colleagues that I see every day, while others show up after twenty or thirty years and recognize you on the street. And so on.

(Oh, and I can’t sing with other people either. (I can sing alone.) And probably not make love, although I did not try that for years and fail to improve, as with singing. Judging from song and dance, I probably would have continued to fail though, so it was just as well.)

I also strongly favor my right hand. It is not that my left hand is hanging limply by my side. It assists well enough, and I can even touch-type. But it is always the right I rely on, whether for writing or throwing darts or eating. And there are many other indicators of handedness, like what eye you use to aim with a rifle or which way you cross your arms and legs. I did a test of those in one of Desmond Morris’ books once and got a staggering 10 out of 10 right hand (left brain). This is highly unusual. Put that together with the sheer absence of typical right-brain talents, and one could be forgiven for thinking I had been dropped on my head when I was a baby.

On the other side (literally), the typical left-brain talents are highly developed, more so than in the average person. I have a very large vocabulary, for instance. Bear in mind that English is my third language (after the two Norwegian languages) and that I have never visited an English-speaking country. I did learn English in high school, but most of what I know I have picked up later by just reading. On the other hand, I struggle with the Japanese Kanji (characters that symbolize a word or concept) since these rely on visual recognition of a complex pattern, a right-brain skill.

Another anomaly occurs when I go to sleep at night. According to the textbooks, humans first drift through chaotic dreams that seem to consist of thoughts and floating images, not lifelike or intense. There are two stadiums of this, evidently, though I know not the difference between them, and then you have a period of deep dreamless sleep. After that, you go through the same two levels on your way up again, and then have a time of vivid, lifelike and intense dreams (REM sleep) before you go down again. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes. But I start dreaming the lifelike (only more intense than my daily life) dreams within minutes (possibly moments) after I go to sleep. I have woken up after less than five minutes from these dreams when they were scary enough to wake me.

And it does not end there. My almost autistic lack of social needs, for instance. When I am off from work, I can easily go a day or two literally without seeing another human. (Not even on TV – I don’t have a TV.) During November (which I take off from work whenever possible to take part in National Novel Writing Month) I can literally go a month without talking to anyone except to say “thank you” to the lady in the supermarket when she gives me back my change. In all fairness, I get the occasional e-mail, but my impression is that this kind of life would drive most human to despair. Me, I thoroughly enjoy it. I don’t miss the sight and sound and smell of humans (or cats or dogs).

Of course, part of this is the continuing Presence that I attribute to God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit, or some combination thereof, but I cannot really prove that even to myself. It just seems to fit the description, if you know what I mean. While I’d love for this to be a purely spiritual thing, I suspect that people come with different ability to perceive such a Presence. Certainly there are many, many Christians who are more pious than me (it really doesn’t take all that much) and who don’t sense it in the same way I do. And there seems to be at least some Hindus who have very similar experience, despite worshiping at different deity. So there may be a kind of “sense organ” for this, the infamous “God organ in the brain”. I would not mind if so. After all, the fact that we have a visual cortex has never been a convincing proof that the visible world is all in our mind…

There are probably other differences as well, that I just can’t remember off the top of my head. In truth it is hard to distribute human traits among body, mind and spirit. For me no less since I grew up with my biological parents (and even two grandparents) so “nature and nurture” were often aligned. But perhaps I have given you a glimpse of some differences that may go pretty deep.

Even with that though, I would still say I am “kind of” human. Of course, the proof of belonging to the same species is being able to interbreed, and so far there has been none of that! Still, I think we are similar enough that most any human could become as happy as I am. Come as you are and become like me! Tempting, is it not?

(“Come as you are and become like us” is a fairly well known phrase in Norway, depicting churches that appear inclusive and newbie-friendly in theory but who expect everyone to think and act the same once they are members.)

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