Brain Maps

No Comments » April 30th, 2016 posted by // Categories: Health

10. Brain Maps

These maps give general locations of talents in the brain.
Click on each map to learn more.

    Left side — Right side
Left Brain Map Right Brain Map

To print the maps, click here for a printable version

To use for publications, ask for a higher resolution version,
and please describe the intended purpose.

Stephen Holland —


12. Talents in the Left Brain

The Left “Human” brain

The right brain is the “animal brain” and analyzes the environment for the sights and sounds useful for survival. In essence, animals are almost 100% “right-brained.” Humans have kept the animal talents on the right side, but have modified the left brain for language and tool use.

The following is a summary of talents found in the left brain. Each talent is a complex network of different processes beyond what is mentioned here, but injuries or strokes in these areas would result in serious loss of these specific talents.

Language Sounds

Sound input in the human left brain is specialized for discriminating the sounds of language. As children grow in the first few months, their sound patch in the temporal lobe is hearing the sounds of people talking, and remembering that certain sound patterns seem to always match certain objects and actions.

Animals do have a limited symbolic vocabulary, and can communicate concepts with certain sounds. The song sparrow in the tree near our house sings a very definite song, which other song sparrows, out of sight, can translate as meaning that he is claimingterritory. This is definitely using a specific sound as a symbol to communicate a real world concept. In contrast, a dog growling and baring its fangs is not being very subtle or symbolic.
(Click here for a song sparrow territorial call — 92 kb .wav file.)

Humans can make very fine distinctions in sound, and therefore meaning. For example we can distinguish the difference in sound of “sat” and “sad.” Instead of one bird song meaning “territory,” we have pages of words on a real estate contract. (If complexity of vocabulary and grammar is a measure of human evolution, then this implies that, on the average, left-brained women who talk a lot are more “human” than most men who do more grunting, and lawyers, poets, and talk-show hosts may represent more evolutionarily advanced, human careers.)

Books give children exposure to much more complex vocabulary, and proper grammar, than children will ever hear from oral language in normal family or school life. This is especially true if parents read to the children, which gives young children access to language and ideas years ahead of their own reading ability. Read, read, read!!!!

Vision and Reading

ision in the human left brain is specialized for reading. The left brain learns to see arrangements of lines we call alphabet letters.

For example…

  1. The visual cortex looks for simple things such as ” l o / “
  2. Then the brain learns to perceive arrangements of lines as letters ” d b p q v “
  3. Then the brain learns to perceive arrangements of letters as words
     l o —–> b —-> bat

Dyslexia” means “can’t read,” and tells us nothing. There are dozens of causes of dyslexia See the page on dyslexia for more information.

Phonics and Spelling

We think in the sounds of a language — and can even think with a foreign accent. Reading is merely a visual gimmick tacked onto our oral vocabulary and grammar. It is common to have people who can speak but not read; it is impossible to have a person who can read but not understand the same language when spoken.

Children at age 6 years have a good oral vocabulary and grammar. Also, their visual cortex has usually developed enough to distinguish the visual shapes of letters. Now they are ready for reading.

There is a special part of the cortex, called the “angular gyrus” which has evolved to match sounds with letters. (A “gyrus” is simply a fold in the cortex that bulges up, while a “sulcus” is a valley.) This is the area so important for spelling.

existing oral vocabulary ——> phonics <— visual perception of letters
ability to read

The angular gyrus develops from about age 6 to 9, then it is mostly finished for most people. Done. If children are exposed to good phonics training in the Primary grades, they will tend to be much better at spelling and reading. For example, the term “word attack skills” means using phonics to sound out letters until they trigger a match with the sound of a word already in the brain.

Reading is a code for oral language, and phonics unlocks the code.

(The “whole language” fad that ignored phonics was popular in education in the 1970s and 80s, and resulted in a wave of poor spellers and readers going through the school system. I earned money tutoring them.)


Grammar is the spatial sense of vocabulary. This is especially true of English, which developed a relatively simple grammar system that depends upon spatial order much more than endings or gender. In English, we have grammar in our left brain that knows “Boy chases kangaroo” is different than “Kangoroo chases boy.” We could also draw pictures in our right brain to symbolically say the same thing:
Left brain words =“Boy chases kangaroo” “Kangaroo chases boy.”
Right brain images =  

As a child grows, the brain soaks in whatever sounds it hears which we call vocabulary and grammar. After age 10, the vocabulary and grammar parts of the brain are mostly finished growing, and the thinking parts of the brain in the frontal lobe continues growing, building upon the foundation of grammar and vocabulary learned in childhood.
 Vocabulary –> Grammar –> Concepts –> Creative thinking

See — Learning Foreign Languages

Body Senses 

Body senses, such as touch, pain and limb position, are similar to the right brain, except that the left brain senses the right side of the body. However, in the left brain they are important for some forms of symbolic thinking (next section).

Symbolic Relationships

The spatial area of the brain, in the parietal lobe, senses complex arrangements. In the left brain, this area works with symbols, not just visual shapes. Examples include…

Right / Left. The body senses tell a child which foot the mother is touching. Vision shows which foot the mother is pointing to. Now the mother says the words, “Put on your left shoe.” Eventually the child’s brain matches up the word “left” with a certain side of the body. More advanced learning will allow the child to match the word “left” with map symbols and the world of navigation so he can say “According to the map, we should make a left turn.” This matches lines on a map with the left side of his body.

My wife had an interesting experience while teaching Kodaly music to children. She taught herself to use the left hand when she said “right” so the young children could mimic her, but afterwards she often got left and right instructions wrong, “Turn left — no, I mean right.”

Reading Clocks. The parietal lobe matches up the sense of time with symbols of a clock face. I once had an intelligent grade 10 student who could not read a traditional clock because he had always used a digital clock as a child. 

Math involves a variety of talents. A concept such as “add” must involve a child seeing the difference between one and two cookies on a plate. The parietal lobes on both sides of the brain work together on math. However, the left brain will tend to work harder on algebra (which is a lot like language grammar), while the right brain will do most of the geometry work. Mental arithmetic is strongly in the right brain because symbols must be moved around in a visual-spatial way.

Creative Ideas

The creative area of the left frontal lobe rearranges words, concepts, symbols, and memories into new patterns. In effect, this allows us to think up new things to say.

When we think about something, we are usually using oral language in our mind. We can rehearse a speech, dream of a conversation, imagine a poem, and remember what someone said on the phone. We can even think with a foreign accent. Most of this goes on in the frontal lobe above our eyebrows.

Clues that this area is well-developed are indicated if a person is…

  • “quick-witted” — making fast associations of ideas and words
  • good at improvising speech — thinking of “what to say” impromptu
  • good at carrying on an “intelligent” conversation instead of “small talk”
  • good at philosophizing with abstract concepts — “why do we exist?”

Inhibitions and Worry

The lower frontal lobe, above the eyes, has the job of stopping a person from getting into trouble through wrong actions. On the left side this means not saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Because most of our thnking is oral language, this area is important for “talking to ourself” and worry.

If the area is too strong, then a person may worry so much that they are afraid to do or say anything. Shyness is a survival mechanism for avoiding trouble.

If it is weakly developed, or injured, a person may say inappropriate things, such as swearing too much or talking too much. Remember, the goal of this area is to keep a person from trouble via the mouth, so if the person is losing friends by what he says, then the inhibition area is not working well.

The Premotor area

The Left premotor area, in upper left front of the forehead, keeps track of sequential patterns — words, symbols, ideas, that come one after another. This is highly important for humans with symbolic thinking.

The area primarily would have evolved for planning tool use — how to use tools in a sequential way to accomplish symbolic goal.

Because the motor nerves cross, this left-brain premotor area controls the RIGHT HAND. Humans are “handed” because one side of the brain specialized to do sequential operationsMost humans have symbolic language in the left brain, so most humans are Right-Handed!

Key talents where this area is important include:

  1. Tool use – doing a sequence of operations with the right hand.
  2. Logical” thinking – putting ideas together in sequence, so one follows another
  3. Cause and effect reasoning – a basis for scientific thinking and “how-to” analysis
  4. Grammar – Thinking, speaking and writing language in a sequential way to follow rules.
  5. Rules for playing Games – what to do in what order, for a logical result. (However, many games like chess also have a strong right-brain component of patterns.
  6. Following recipes and instructions
  7. Awareness of time, and possibly the passage of time in comparison to other events. (For example, when people are using this part of the brain for intensive sequential analysis, such as how to do something on a computer, time awareness seems to fail, and they will say, “I lost track of time.”

The Motor area

In the Left-brain, this area puts into practice the instructions from the left-brain pre-motor area, but controlling the Right Side of the body. This of course covers the Right hand.

Because the Left side of the brain is language based, the Motor area also controls strongly the instructions to speak language. (Stuttering may involve confusion between the left and right Motor and Pre-Motor areas trying to control the single language ability.)

The Speech area

This seems to be a highly developed part of the general motor area, which evolved to handle the difficult muscle control needed for speech creation.

Stephen Holland —

11. Talents in the Right Brain

Right side of brain

The Right “Animal” brain

The right brain is the “animal brain” and analyzes the environment for all the sights and sounds useful for survival. In essence, animals are 100% “right-brained.” Humans have kept the animal talents on the right side, but have modified the left brain for language and tool use. 

The following is a summary of talents found in the right brain. Each talent is a complex network of different processes beyond what is mentioned here, but injuries or strokes in these areas would result in serious loss of these specific talents. 


Animals must be very concerned about their visual environment, both for food and danger. Therefore, this area is one of the oldest and best developed areas of the brain. Most animals can see shape, color, motion perception, depth perception, etc.
Humans have added left-brain symbolic meaning to the visual images, such as the word “rabbit” in the left brain to match the image in the right brain, or an art critic trying to analyze the meaning in a Picasso painting.

The Spatial Sense

The spatial sense helps animals see objects in their mind, the “Minds Eye.” For example:

(A) The Object-Spatial sense allows animals to “rotate” an object in their mind, imagining what it looks like from different angles. 

This is very useful to a cat to analyze where a mouse is hiding, mentally consider the mouse’s path, and decide where to sit to be in the best position to ambush it. 

Human craftsmen use this talent extensively to build houses, design jewelry, fix cars, etc. (In your mind, imagine opening the door of the cabinet under the kitchen sink — what would you see?) This part of the brain is also used by humans to juggle math symbols for mental math (calculate “608 x 22 =” in your mind).

(B) The Navigational-Spatial sense allows animals to keep track of where they are in a larger environment, using the spatial relationship of landmark clues. 
Bees can fly home in a “bee-line” using the sun as a landmark, even compensating for changes in the angle to the sun as it changes within a few minutes during the time they are in the hive or on the flowers. In the hive, scout bees symbolically translate their navigational knowledge into the language of dance — different movements are “read” by other bees telling them what direction the new flowers are in relation to the sun’s angle, how far away they are, and how good the source is. 
 use this talent to find their car in the mall parking lot, and remember how to drive their cars through a maze of city streets to get home after work. (While inside a shopping mall, can you point in a “bee-line” to directly where you car is?). We symbolically translate locations into maps, pointing with our fingers, and using location and distance names. To imitate the bee’s symbolic dance, we might use symbolic language: “You’ll find a very good ice cream store if you go that way 3 blocks and turn left.”


Music is an extension of sound talents used for animal communication, such as bird songs. 

Birds must be able to analyze the pitch, melodies, intervals, rhythm and harmonies of bird songs to determine if the song is of the same species, if the song is a territorial or mating call, and which individual is singing. Animals as diverse as humpback whales, parrots, and dolphins have intricate sound patterns for communication. 
Humans add more complexity with left-brain symbolism that can analyze music into chromatic scales, the “key of D major”, choruses, four-part harmony, etc. 

Body Senses 

Body senses includes touch, pain, and limb position. Because the brain is “blind,” it must use these senses to learn about the body carrying it.
One important sense is “proprioception,” which uses sensors in the joints to tell where a limb is (Close your eyes and then try to keep track of your arm as you move it around). 
Humans use this proprioception sense when doing numerous activities, including sports, dance and musical instruments. If this area is weak, then a piano player will reach out with his arm incorrectly and hit the wrong notes on the keyboard, and a gymnast wouldn’t know where her limbs were very well.


Memory processes are not well understood, but we know that the location for many memories are in the temporal lobe. The right temporal lobe has mostly visual memories and non-verbal sounds (bird songs, your pet dog, music, etc.).

Face Memory is so important that the brain has a special place for it, at the bottom of the right temporal lobe. As a child, you were exposed to many faces, and your brain learned an “average” face. Your brain remembers individuals by how they differ from the average. In fact, the brain defines a “beautiful” face as an “average” face because it has no deviations or defects. 

Animals developed this feature to tell friend from foe, and identify family members. Humans see each other as individuals but may not identify cows well, but the cows know each other as individuals and think most humans look the same.

Emotional Memory is a special feature of the front of the temporal lobe. It stores emotional tags on memories as a way of determining the importance of the memory. A pet dog may have “pleasure” emotions associated with its memory, while the dog down the street may have “danger” emotional tags. The sight of each dog’s image may trigger the emotions, or thinking the emotions may trigger the images. 

Emotional tags learned very young can become the basis of phobias, racial prejudice, and tribal warfare
, and are very difficult to change in adults.

The Creative “Yes” area 

The central frontal lobe creates new ideas and patterns from the raw material in memory and senses. 

Creativity is a talent that is based on the strength of other talents. The field of creativity depends upon which patches this area is strongly connected to, such as art, dance, music, architecture, etc. A person with this area strongly connected to the face memory patch may be good at organizing social relationships. 
This area is also the “Yes” or “Go” center. It’s job is to think up an action (which may or may not be creative). People who have a strong Go center will tend to say “Why not?” and be the first to to do wild or dangerous things. People with weak Go centers will tend to be lazy and unmotivated.

The “No” or Inhibition area 

Inhibition is in the lower frontal lobe. It’s job is to inhibit the “Go” center, thus striking a balance, and protecting people from acting in a way that can lead to danger. It is a self-protective talent. This is where we learn what is right and wrong behavior, store ourconscience, and learn social manners (correct behavior). 

If this is naturally weak, or not well developed, then a person will have low inhibitions, and perhaps anti-social or criminal behavior, which may put the person in danger.

A person with a strong inhibition talent will tend to think “no” to new ideas and suggestions, thereby over-protecting themselves. Unfortunately, this aspect can also bother other people, such as teenage children or employees, who are excited with new ideas or plans.

Animals that stay in groups will have the most need for learning inhibitions, and therefore be the most trainable.Individuals in a 
pack of wolves or dogs, a group of apes, or a tribe of humans, need to learn “social behavior” to survive well. Solitary animals such as house cats don’t need to learn many inhibitions. This can explain why dogs become so sociable and trainable, while house cats can’t be trained well (lions in Africa live in groups, so may be more trainable than house cats).

The Premotor area 

The premotor area is where muscle action is learned, through practice.
This is the key area for learning actions, such as learning to fly, catch mice, dance, swing a tennis racket, play a piano, or shuffle cards. When a behavior is thoroughly learned, it becomes a habit.Interestingly, some muscle action can be practiced mentally

If this area is strong, then people learn complex actions quickly, such as a new dance step. If it is weak, then people learn slowly, and need to practice a lot.

The Motor area 

The motor area is like a puppet master controlling individual muscles by pulling strings (the premotor area is the puppet master, and the creative area writes the script).

  1. Creative area —– “I want to hit the ball in the right field”
  2. Inhibition area —–“I better not hit a foul ball”
  3. Premotor area —- Remembers how to swing a bat through practice
  4. Motor area ——- Sends impulses down to the arm muscles
  5. Cerebellum ——- Makes muscle movements smooth and graceful

A person with many neurons devoted to this will tend to have more precise control of individual muscles, which is useful in craft work and playing musical instruments.

The nerves cross going to the brain, so the right motor area controls the left side of the body, such as the left hand. Left-handed people operate from the right side of the brain.

Injuries or strokes on the right side of the brain make the left side of the body paralyzed.

The Cerebellum 

The cerebellum at the back of the neck coordinates muscle motion. The motor area sends a command to reach for a glass of water. If the cerebellum is well developed, then it intercepts the muscle signals and modifies them so that the hand slowly accerelates smoothly to start with, then slows down smoothly as it gets near the glass. If the cerebellum is weak, then the arm may shoot out awkwaredly and knock the glass over.

A good cerebellum action produces…

  1. Fluid, graceful, cat-like motion.
  2. Good balance
  3. Speed of repetitive motion (important for typing speed and playing music)

weak cerebellum can show up as being awkward, clumsy, falling easily, and typing slowly

Stephen Holland —


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