Ambidexterity and My Molecular Frontiers Inquiry Prize Question
The Molecular Frontiers Inquiry Prize is the first to award students for their questions. Every year, the Molecular Frontiers Inquiry Prize (MFIP) chooses ten intriguing and so far unanswerable questions in science, from young and curious minds.
Last year, I submitted my first question to them, and I happened to make it to the finalists . Regardless of not becoming one of the ten winners, it was an honourable accomplishment. I would like to share this honour with you by covering my question in this article, along with a proposal to finding the answer, as it is supposedly achievable and not unanswerable.
With most humans having side dominance, or more precisely, with motor laterality in the body and cerebral hemispheres, why can’t we perform motor skills with equal efficiency using both sides? Why are we made to have sidedness instead of “ambidexterity” in the body? Can reprogramming the brain to, perhaps artificially, use/make myelin, electrical impulses, and/or neurotransmitters substitute performing repetitious practice of motor skills, making neurorehabilitation trials faster?
Rephrasing the entirety, I’m asking why are the majority of us made to have a dominant side (hand, leg, etc.), and what would happen if we were able to use both sides of the body. Is it possible to become ambidextrous and would we have the ability to avoid repetitive motor exercises if artificially implemented?
Why we are not ambidextrous:
Focusing in on the human species for now, this might require some understanding of human evolution. Over the millions of years, the human species developed biological advantages and disadvantages; among the advantages was motor laterality, or what we know as a dominant side in the body. This can also be observed in other organisms such as primates, horses, and kangaroos (Smith, 2018).
Avoiding continuous motor skills:
Studies have suggested that myelin, as well as other parts of the brain, plays an important role in motor learning. However, the effects of altering the “programming” of our brain has been questionable. Consider this article on “Artificial Syncing and the Role of Myelin in Learning” by Nathan Michaels, Ph.D. (2020). Of course, we can learn how to create a new type of motor learning by tapping into the brain’s networks, but would doing so be a pro or a con? This brings the return of my previous question, if ambidexterity is an advantage or a disadvantage — and why?
Using technology to understand the mystery of motor laterality:
During the process of submitting my question, I was asked for a suggestion to finding the answer(s). It’s complexly simple. Firstly, to create foundation, we can observe and record neural activity in each of the cerebral hemispheres during the learning of motor skills (humans and other organisms).
We can also attempt to form a model of the evolving brain. There’s two questions that arise with this suggestion:
Why make a model?
This “model” can help us understand what actually took place as our ancestors brains’ developed motor laterality, with consideration for environmental and other contributing factors.
What type of model should we use?
We use the one that is closest to our brain, both in the present and the past… millions of years past…
Implementing an artificial intelligence system with machine learning can serve as our model. It does not have to be sophisticated, because we are not trying achieve supreme intelligence. In some way or the other, we should be able to mimic the cerebral hemispheres, and try to connect a system that can perform motor skills. Start with a program not as complex as our present neural network, to portray the not fully evolved brain. We can now continue from there, taking note of how this machine learns, and how and why it’s “brain” forms motor laterality (or not).
I am eager to know if my question can be answered unreservedly. I remember searching the internet for why humans are not ambidextrous, but, as I told Molecular Frontiers:
The answer to this question hasn’t been certainly established yet; and although much research supports several hypotheses, my mind still has dubiety and I seek a strongly proven answer.
After asking my question, and now proposing my plan to find the answer, I want to see a breakthrough that can improve the lives of those affected by neurological motor disorders or neural injuries. I furthermore wish to contribute more than this article of experiment plans — I seek to play a more active role in this research in the future.
Thank you for reading about my “studies,” and stay curious friends!