Bipolar Disorder and the Two Brains:
Interhemispheric Switching and the "Sticky Switch"
A researcher by the name of Jack Pettigrew was brought to my attention several years ago by a member of my Bipolar Support Group.
Dr. Pettigrew, himself afflicted with Bipolar Disorder, has made a fascinating contribution to our understanding of the Right/Left alternating dominance of the brain and how it affects someone with Bipolar Disorder. (Unfortunately, I would bet my last dollar that this information will never be embraced by the medical community because there is no money in it, as you will see when you read on...)
Dr. Pettigrew states:
"We propose that bipolar disorder is the result of a genetic propensity for slow interhemispheric switching mechanisms that become "stuck" in one or the other state. Since slow switches are also "sticky" when compared with fast switches, the clinical manifestations of bipolar disorder may be explained by hemispheric activation being "stuck" on the left (mania) or on the right (depression).
What this means in plain language:
Normally the dominant side of the brain switches every few seconds. But for a person with Bipolar Disorder, it the time between switching is about 10 times longer.
The right brain is mostly about spacial awareness, abstract thinking, emotion, artistic perception, intuition, introversion and creativity; The left brain functions quite independently from the right, and is more the analytical computer, the side that creates and understands language, codes, linear thinking, extroverted and energetic.
Normally the switching from one side to another is rather fast, seamless and imperceptible. They are integrated.
Pettigrew theorizes that when Depressed, it is because of a prolonged period of being stuck in the Right brain. And when manic/hypomanic - stuck in the Left brain.
The way to unstick it? A few drops of ice water in the ear that is on the same side that you are "stuck" in.
For Depression: Ice water in the Right Ear
For Mania: Ice water in the Left Ear.
(Putting the cold water in the ear canal activates the opposite side of the brain).
I have seen only one of my clients try this technique. He did it during a sudden period of escalating hypomania. Medications were not working to bring him down and he was getting worried. And guess what? It actually worked! Instantly and with permanent (as of 6 weeks later) results. His mood immediately stabilized, mind stopped racing, awareness returned to "normal," became calm, grounded and focused and could sleep again.
To me this is absolutely amazing. I don't tell people to try this, but to just read the research and decide for yourself.
Do you think the Eli Lilly Company will try to create an ice water pill to make their next billion dollars?
Learn more about the two brains and alternative treatment of bipolar disorder
For another fascinating perspective on the powerful changes in consciousness associated with the two brains, watch this video by Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist who had a stroke and actually observed herself losing the ability to think (left hemisphere), yet remained in a state of blissful awareness and oneness with the universe.... (this is one of the most inspiring videos I've ever seen).