Right brain yes – left brain no
McGilchrist’s list of right brain attributes is extraordinarily close to my personal experience of ADHD, and it chimes too with the insights and prepectives of the hundreds of adult ADHD clients I have coached. As I read his book, I related completely to my ADHD strengths in the functioning of the right hemisphere, but was constantly reminded of my ADHD weakness in his descriptions of our left-brain traits.
ADHD adults consistently describe and exhibit their “right-brain” traits: holistic thinkers, more intuitive, empathetic and emotional, wide-focussed and flexible, love humour, adrift in time, and a profound response to aesthetics and creativity.
I have coached around twenty medical practitioners. Every one has been ahead of the curve in their field, bringing together the latest research, nutrition & wellbeing, psychology and meditation into a holistic whole. These ADHD doctor clients have all had a far more integrated approach to medicine than I have ever found in my personal experience with doctors. Anecdotal yes, but then we have a lot of anecdotes…
The left brain traits appear rather to map onto ADHD problems or weaknesses. Scientific research confirms our problems with details; our struggles to reflect, analyse and organize; our consistent inconsistency; our tendency not to classify the trees but to consider the forest, country, world and solar system too.
Any expert with personal experience of ADHD, will relate to our right-brained love for big-pictures, humour and joy in finding connections.
Neurological bias for “right-brained = ADHD”
There are neurological grounds for this ADHD right-brained emphasis too. Though never mentioning ADHD, Ian McGilchrist explains that the right-brain is more neurologically “tightly connected” than the left, signals travel shorter distances with less chance of signal decay. More importantly the right brain uses nor-adrenaline, (nor-epinephrine) rather than dopamine for communications. Research shows dopamine as the “faulty” neurotransmitter at issue in ADHD, so logically you might expect the left brain to be affected, not the right?
In ADHD, with a less-dominant left brain, there is a struggle to focus on detail, lessened self-interest, a reduced desire to organise and control but with a dominant right-brain in ADHD, there is a greater sense of emotion, breadth, flexibility and generosity, an experience of time as a continuum, a strong response to music, poetry and the moral dimensions.
Where’s the research?
There really has been little to no research on the actual experience of being ADHD, it’s so frustrating! Where are the large qualitative and quantitative studies asking ADHD adults about their thinking, decision making, desires, values and perspectives? There are so many writers, presenters, coaches and doctors saying so, there are websites, blogs, books, articles that discuss these right-brained traits as being central to ADHD. It is such a shame that there is so little funding for research available – outside the “ADHD is nothing more than a disability” box that is.
Knots and ducks
In the absence of any sound ADHD research on this matter, I think the principal of the Gordian Knot applies: the simplest and most obvious answer is probably right: