Might lefties and righties benefit differently from a power nap?

October 17, 2012

People who like to nap say it helps them focus their minds post a little shut eye. Now, a study from Georgetown University Medical Center may have found evidence to support that notion.

The research, presented at Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, found that when participants in a study rested, the of their brains talked more to itself and to the left hemisphere than the left hemisphere communicated within itself and to the right hemisphere – no matter which of the participants' hands was dominant. (Neuroscientists say right-handed people use their left hemisphere to a greater degree, and vice versa.)

Results of this study, the first known to look at activity in the two different hemispheres during rest, suggests that the right hemisphere "is doing important things in the resting state that we don't yet understand," says Andrei Medvedev, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Center for Functional and at Georgetown. The activities being processed by the right hemisphere, which is known to be involved in , could be daydreaming or processing and storing previously acquired information. "The brain could be doing some helpful housecleaning, classifying data, consolidating memories," Medvedev says. "That could explain the power of napping. But we just don't know yet the relative roles of both hemispheres in those processes and whether the power nap might benefit righties more then lefties."

To find out what happens in the resting state, the research team connected 15 study participants to near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) equipment. This technology, which is low cost and portable, uses light to measure changes in oxygenated inside the body.

The wore a cap adorned with optical fibers that delivers to the outermost layers of the brain and then measures the light that bounces back. In this way, the device can "see" which are most active and communicating at a higher level based on increased use of oxygen in the blood and heightened synchronicity of their activities.

"The device can help delineate global networks inside the brain—how the components all work together," Medvedev says. "The better integrated they are, the better cognitive tasks are performed."

To their surprise, the researchers found that left and right hemispheres behaved differently during the resting state. "That was true no matter which hand a participant used. The right hemisphere was more integrated in right-handed participants, and even stronger in the left-handed," he says.

Medvedev is exploring the findings for an explanation. And he suggests that brain scientists should start focusing more of their attention on the right hemisphere. "Most brain theories emphasize the dominance of the left hemisphere especially in right handed individuals, and that describes the population of participants in these studies," Medvedev says. "Our study suggests that looking at only the prevents us from a truer understanding of brain function." The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (grants # RR025786, GM103526 and EB006589). Medvedev and his co-authors report having no personal financial interests related to this study.

Explore further: What you hear could depend on what your hands are doing

More information: This research will be presented on poster BBB36 in Hall F-J on Wed., Oct 17, from 1:00 to 2:00 pm CT.

Related Stories

What you hear could depend on what your hands are doing

October 14, 2012
New research links motor skills and perception, specifically as it relates to a second finding—a new understanding of what the left and right brain hemispheres "hear." Georgetown University Medical Center researchers say ...

Study finds emotion reversed in left-handers' brains

May 2, 2012
The way we use our hands may determine how emotions are organized in our brains, according to a recent study published in PLoS ONE by psychologists Geoffrey Brookshire and Daniel Casasanto of The New School for Social Research ...

Scientists search for source of creativity: Calling it a 'right brain' phenomenon is too simple, researchers say

March 5, 2012
It takes two to tango. Two hemispheres of your brain, that is.

Brain's involvement in processing depends on language's graphic symbols

March 21, 2012
Readers whose mother tongue is Arabic have more challenges reading in Arabic than native Hebrew or English speakers have reading their native languages, because the two halves of the brain divide the labor differently when ...

Guiding light: how the brain gets wired for stereo vision

June 15, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Nerve cells that transmit light signals from the eye into the brain use a molecule best known for its role in blood vessel growth as a ‘stepping stone’ to help them reach the opposite brain hemisphere, ...

Recommended for you

The nerve-guiding 'labels' that may one day help re-establish broken nervous connections

August 16, 2017
Scientists have identified a large group of biological 'labels' that guide nerves to ensure they make the correct connections and control different parts of the body. Although their research was conducted with fruit flies, ...

Scientists give star treatment to lesser-known cells crucial for brain development

August 16, 2017
After decades of relative neglect, star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes are finally getting their due. To gather insight into a critical aspect of brain development, a team of scientists examined the maturation of astrocytes ...

Researchers discover fundamental pathology behind ALS

August 16, 2017
A team led by scientists at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Mayo Clinic has identified a basic biological mechanism that kills neurons in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and in a related genetic disorder, frontotemporal ...

Navigation and spatial memory—new brain region identified to be involved

August 16, 2017
Navigation in mammals including humans and rodents depends on specialized neural networks that encode the animal's location and trajectory in the environment, serving essentially as a GPS, findings that led to the 2014 Nobel ...

Prematurity leaves distinctive molecular signature in infants' cerebellum

August 15, 2017
Premature birth, which affects one in 10 U.S. babies, is associated with altered metabolite profiles in the infants' cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls coordination and balance, a team led by Children's National ...

What neuroscience can tell us about the Google diversity memo

August 15, 2017
Everybody seems to have an opinion about Google's recent sacking of its malware software engineer James Damore for circulating a memo arguing that women and men are suitable for different roles because they are intrinsically ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

MrVibrating
not rated yet Oct 17, 2012
My own pet theory is that the key benefit of lateralisation is in delineating and apportioning spatiotemporal components of information to opposite nuclei - simply put, parallel processing of spatial and temporal aspects of a given information stream.

The difference between whether a given component is processed as spatial or temporal information boils down to the relative sizes of the temporal integration windows - the 'sampling bandwidths' - of the resolving nuclei. This differentiation is, i believe, also a key function of the thalamus and its cortical connections.

Thus if one hemisphere appears busier with a task than the other, it's likely because the complementary processes on the opposite side are occurring at vastly different frequencies / wavelengths, and so simply being missed by the form of data acquisition being applied.

From an informational perspective, bilateral symmetry is, it seems, only skin deep...
sirchick
not rated yet Oct 17, 2012
When i power nap from 10 to 40 mins i always wake up feeling groggy and with an upset stomach. So i just go without a power nap. Its no fun cos power naps are comfy :(

I also feel more tired - maybe I'm waking up mid way through a sleep cycle but i dunno how long i should nap for =/

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.