Which direction should a brain image face?

Preparing images for a talk, I was using the great bioRender to grab some images of brains-in-heads in humans and mice. Putting them on my slides, I found the left-facing much more pleasant to look at. Why?

Twitter to the rescue – people came up with several categories of answers.

1. general anatomy convention

2. reading or artistic drawing convention

I do not find these particularly compelling, since even if we draw/read from left to right there is no reason the drawing should start with frontal, rather than posterior cortex. It may be that this is simply easier to draw for right-handed artists, however (as this preference is observed not just in neuroscience, but art in general).

3. neuroscience of language always shows areas in the left hemisphere


And of course, people have written papers about this!

Wiseman R, Owen AM (2017) Turning the Other Lobe: Directional Biases in Brain Diagrams. i-Perception 8:2041669517707769. 

Surprisingly (to me), these authors actually collect some proper data and find that the majority of brains in Google Images is right-facing, instead of my preferred left-facing.  Looks like my preference is not shared by everyone – perhaps this is an exquisite example of post-hoc rationalization for our shared cultural norms, after all..

Always interesting to explicitly consider some of the strong shared assumptions we have as a field.

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