ADHD Brain; Left Dominant, Right Dominant or Mixed?

Are you left brained, right brained or do you have an ADHD brain with mixed or cross dominance? Very little research has been done of eye/ear/hand/foot dominance and ADHD but Developmental Ophthomologist have studied the effects of cross dominance on attention and working memory for quite a long time. They have found that when our brains are cross-lateralized, mixed dominant or cross dominant, our executive functioning (memory, attention, organizational skills, spatial skills) suffer.

It was once thought that being left handed predisposed people to a diagnosis of ADHD. Studies have not born out these findings but research studies do indicate that 'anomalous lateralization' or cross dominance can cause considerable havoc in brain functioning.

Cross dominance is the phenomena where your handedness and/or dominant foot are not on the same side as your dominant eye and ear. An example would be someone like my inattentive son who kicks and writes with his right foot and hand but his dominant eye is his left eye. Your dominance is thought to be congruent if the hand that your write with and the foot that you kick with are on the same side as your dominant eye.

You can test your dominance by taking an object and dropping it to the floor and then stepping up to kick it. The foot you just used is your dominant foot. If you have someone throw this same object to you from across the room and you then catch it, the hand you used to catch it is your dominant hand. To determine your eye dominance, take your camera and hold it up to take a picture. The eye that you used to look through the view finder is your dominant eye. Turn your head to hear music in the other room, the ear that you used to better hear is your dominant ear.

Developmental Optometrist believe that the brain develops better when there is a dominant hemisphere. Researchers are not certain why this is so but it appears that establishing a dominant eye, ear, hand and foot may lead to a better organized brain and a brain that develops at a normal rate whereas the mixed dominant brain develops more slowly and is less well organized.

There are test that tell you if you are primarily right brained or left brained and these tend to indicate that you are primarily right brained if your dominant eye, foot, and hand are on the left and to indicate that you are primarily left brained if the opposite is true. The brain dominance issue is very important because how we best learn is determined by our brain lateralization.

Mixed dominance is generally treated with exercises aimed to strengthen both sides of the body. These are called "crossing the midline" exercises. Square dancing cross the midline, tennis and tether ball cross the midline, doing figure 8s on a great big white board is an exercise that crosses the midline.

Cross dominance is treated because people who are cross dominant may have spatial perception issues, dyslexia, auditory processing issues, clumsiness, working memory problems, learning problems, attention problems or none of the above.

Treated cross dominance can be an asset and need not be an impairment. My spouse is cross dominant and is a physician, an artist and a musician. Cross dominant individuals can, actually, have the best of all worlds because, in the best case scenario, they have strength on both sides of the brain. Ambidextrous people are often mixed dominant and are often drawn to right brained fields such as art and left brain fields such as engineering.

Take this free test to determine if your ADHD brain is lateralized to the left or right. That page also has great suggestions and strategies for working with your left or right brain.   I have also included the research study from the Journal of Pyschiatric Research on ADHD and mixed dominance, the authors call it by the totally unwieldy name of 'anamalous lateralization',  the article is below the 'Related Post' section.

If this post has been fun to read or you just having a burning desire to be really nice, do me a favor and share it.  Thanks!

Related Post:

ADHD and Cross Dominance, Part 1
ADHD and Cross Dominance, Part 2

Journal of  Psychiatric Research.
Evidence for anomalous lateralization across domain in ADHD children as well as adults identified with the Wender Utah rating scale.
Reid HM, Norvilitis JM.
2000 Jul-Oct;34(4-5):311-6.
Department of Psychology, State University of New York College at Buffalo, 1300 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14222, USA.


Two studies assessed the relation between ADHD symptomatology and correlates of cerebral dominance. In the first, laterality was examined in school children (N=57), 28 with ADHD. Parental reports of greater attentional symptoms were related to non-righthandedness, but teacher reports were related to anomalous laterality of foot, ear and eye, as well as hand. This suggests that the previously reported association between ADHD and non-righthandedness may not be unique, but instead indicative of a more general condition of anomalous lateralization. This possibility was examined in study two, in which 234 undergraduates were assessed. As expected, the 26 adults identified by the Wender Utah Rating Scale (WURS) as retrospectively reporting more ADHD characteristics were found to be generally male. Also, in a replication of study one, enhanced WURS scores were associated with anomalous lateralization beyond handedness. In this case, ADHD characteristics were associated with a shift away from a right bias for hand, foot, and ear, but not eye. Factor analysis of the extensive Steenhuis and Bryden handedness questionnaire was then undertaken to determine whether all aspects of handedness, or only a subset, are associated with ADHD. The factor analysis indicated that the retrospective reports of ADHD characteristics were associated with only two of the three dimensions. Though limitations such as the gender composition of the groups in study one tempers the conclusions, the results of both studies support previous findings that ADHD is associated with anomalous laterality, but also indicate that non-righthandedness is not an adequate characterization of this relationship.


  1. Quoting the post: "Ambidextrous people are often mixed dominant and are often drawn to left brained fields such as art and right brain fields such as engineering."

    I believe engineering is a left brained field, and art is a right brained field.

  2. You are soooo right. I will correct. Posting to much to fast...


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