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11/21/2014 10:38 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Does Training Yourself to Be Ambidextrous Affect Your Brain?

Is trying to become ambidextrous a good idea? Why or why not?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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Answer by Logan Forbes, left or right, either way

This is an interesting question and there are conflicting theories on whether training ourselves to be ambidextrous has any real benefit. Some researchers even believe it can ultimately cause us harm.

One possible benefit is improving communication between our left and right brain hemispheres which might improve creative and abstract thinking.

Einstein is often cited as an example of unusual brain development. He was observed to be right-handed, but his brain hemispheres were nearly symmetrical which is the case in some left-handed and all ambidextrous persons. Other examples are Tesla and DaVinci, both ambidextrous/left-handed and both considered creative geniuses.

Imaging studies show our brain will adapt in shape and size in response to training. Training the non-dominant side is going to help increase the connections on that side and develop and grow the brain in general.

These same scans show the right-handed have much larger left hemispheres and the ambidextrous/left-handed have nearly symmetrical hemispheres.

Ninety-five percent of righties have brains that divide up tasks equally, but only about 20 percent of lefties do.

Michael Corballis, professor of cognitive neuroscience and psychology at the University of Auckland, says:

The two hemispheres of the brain are not interchangeable. The left hemisphere, for example, is typically responsible for language processing, whereas the right hemisphere often handles nonverbal activities. To attempt to undo or tamper with this efficient setup may invite psychological problems.

A concert pianist demonstrates superb skill with both hands, but this mastery is complementary rather than competitive. A cooperative brain seems to work better than one in which the two sides compete.

A study in Finland of 8000 school children showed a possible link to ADHD with ambidextrous children performing slightly worse in math and language testing.

From this study researchers theorized that a cerebral disturbances and other developmental issues in the womb are what led to the ambidexterity and the ADHD, not the other way around. So it's highly unlikely that training ourselves to be ambidextrous would cause ADHD or any cerebral disturbances.

Proponents of ambidexterity training recommend starting out with a simple activity such as switching the computer mouse to the other side. Things that can be incorporated into our day without too much disruption.

Tasks like pouring coffee into a cup with the opposite hand or flipping light switches are too easily forgotten and won't have much of an effect in brain training.

Supporters of ambidexterity training warn that you can become fatigued if it's overdone and you may even notice a decline in certain skills that were once second nature due to brain fatigue. If this happens, it's best to cut back on the training.

Training to Become Ambidextrous

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