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Hold the Phone - Are You Thinking With The Right Side of Your Brain?

Tim Boyer's picture
Phone speech and brain

Researchers from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit are about to publish a new study that addresses left and right brain functioning that could have multiple implications all because of which ear a person uses when holding a cell phone.

According to the researchers, they’ve discovered that left-brain dominant people, who make up approximately 95% of the population, hold their cell phone to their right ear, whereas right-brain dominant people are more likely to hold their phone to their left ear.

According to a press release issued by the Henry Ford Hospital, this discovery is more than just another interesting factoid about human-handedness and whether a person tends to be a left brain or right brain thinker.

“Our findings have several implications, especially for mapping the language center of the brain,” says Michael Seidman, M.D., FACS, director of the division of otologic and neurotologic surgery in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Henry Ford. “By establishing a correlation between cerebral dominance and sidedness of cell phone use, it may be possible to develop a less-invasive, lower-cost option to establish the side of the brain where speech and language occurs rather than the Wada test, a procedure that injects an anesthetic into the carotid artery to put part of the brain to sleep in order to map activity.”

However, a more important issue this discovery may resolve is whether or not cell phones are associated with the development of brain tumors or other types of tumors in the head and neck. According to Dr. Seidman, cell phone use and tumor development may not be linked after all because if it were, you would expect to see far more tumors develop on the right side of the head and neck compared to the left side of the head and neck.

The study, which is slated to be published soon in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, is the result of an online survey given to 5,000 participants that included questions about which hand did the participant prefer for writing, which ear is used during a phone conversation, how much time is typically spent talking on cell phone; and, if they had ever been diagnosed with a brain or head and neck tumor.

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What the survey revealed was that:

• The average cell phone usage was 540 minutes per month.

• The majority of respondents (90%) were right handed, 9% were left handed and 1% was ambidextrous.

• Among those who are right handed, 68% reported that they hold the phone to their right ear, while 25% used the left ear and 7% used both right and left ears.

• For those who are left handed, 72% said they used their left ear for cell phone conversations, while 23% used their right ear and 5% had no preference.

The authors of the study concluded that their data shows that there is a correlation between brain dominance and which ear is used with a cell phone with a significantly higher probability of using the ear on the dominant hand side.

A future study is in the works to statistically determine whether the incidence of tumors of the brain, head and neck tend to predominate on the same side of the head and neck as the side the cell phone is normally used in affected individuals.

Image Source: Courtesy of PhotoBucket

Reference: Henry Ford Health System―“Study Examines Relationship Between Hemispheric Dominance and Cell Phone Use” JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, 2013; Michael D. Seidman et al.