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Gazzaniga Key Study

Area of Psychology: Split brain. Split brain is a procedure when there is severe epilepsy in one hemisphere of the brain and the surgeons cut the corpus callosum to stop the spread of epileptic seizures from one hemisphere to the other. In general, this procedure is successful as the patients seizures are reduced and sometimes eliminated. Youtube videos: A brief introduction to split brain and split brain patients:

Title of Study: Gazzaniga (1984) Split brain observations. This is a natural experiment.

Figure 1: The Dual Brain Development

Figure 2: The Split Brain

Researchers: Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga. Michael Gazzaniga (born

December 12, 1939) is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he heads the new SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind. Some of his famous books are The Social Brain, Mind Matters, Natures Mind, The Cognitive Neurosciences III and The Ethical Brain. He worked under the guidance of Roger Sperry, with primary responsibility for initiating human split-brain research. Roger Sperry (August 20, 1913 April 17, 1994) was a neuropsychologist, neurobiologist and Nobel laureate who won the 1981 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work with split-brain research.

Figure 3: Professor Michael Gazzaniga Figure 4: Roger Sperry Aims: To investigate hemispheric specialization with split-brain patients. A splitbrain patients two hemispheres are functionally isolated, in effect; their right brain

doesnt know what their left-brain is doing (and vice versa). Each hemisphere is indeed a conscious system in its own right, perceiving, thinking, remembering, reasoning, willing, and emoting, all at a characteristically human level, and both the left and the right hemisphere may be conscious simultaneously in different, even in mutually conflicting, mental experiences that run along in parallel. Roger Wolcott Sperry, 1974

Procedures: In one of Sperrys experiments, split-brain patients were asked to

stare at a spot on a projection screen and then draw/name the objects he saw as they flashed up on either side or both sides of the screen. Therefore split brain patient Joe was asked to look at a screen with a dot in the middle of a computer screen and then name/draw the objects he saw as they flashed up on either side or both sides of the screen.

Figure 5: A split-brain patient asked to stare at the dot on the projection screen

Here is a video of the split brain patient Joe: Findings: In Sperrys experiment when pictures of various objects were projected to the right of that spot, they could name the object. And, with their right hands they could pick them out of a group of hidden objects. However, when pictures of objects were shown on the left side of the screen, something changed. Patients could pick out the objects by feeling them with their left hands, but they couldnt say what the objects were! In fact, when asked objects they saw on the left side of the screen, split brain patients usually said nothing. So, when Joe focuses on a point (right visual field), everything to the

Figure 6: The conflict between your right and left stare at the dot on the projection screen brains (hemispheres)

right of the point goes to his left-brain, the area associated with language and speech. When a word or picture is flashed on the right side, Joe is easily able to name it. When information to the left of the point (left visual field) goes to the right hand side of his brain, Joe is unable to name the object but he is able to draw the object with his left hand (which is controlled by the right half of his brain).

Figure 7: A picture illustrating a common split-brain experiment

Figure 8: Another experiment on split brain patients

This can be easily understood through a GAME:

The different hemispheres have separate functions (leftlanguage/right- spatial tasks). The mind is made up of several independent agents and they can carry out activities outside of our conscious awareness, they are integrated at one point, which Gazzaniga believes is in the left hemisphere. Part of the explanation for these strange results lies in the fact that nerves cross over before entering the hemispheres. The left cerebral hemisphere receives information only from the right side of the body and the right half of the visual field. So the left hemisphere can match an object shown in the right visual field with information received by touch by the right hand. Conversely, the right hemisphere of the brain receives information only from the left side of the visual field and the left side of the body. So, the right hemispheres can match an object shown in the left visual field with information received by touch from the left hand.

Figure 9: Description of the split brain and split brain patients experiment

Specific evaluation Points: Significance of the research:

Split-brain studies are date back to the work of Michael Gazzaniga and Rodger Sperry in the 1950s, but powerful developments in the second half of the century have allowed a higher level of accuracy and greater detail. From their origins in the 1950 until this very day they continue to give us powerful insights in to the mechanisms of the mind and address some of the most fundamental questions of modern psychology.

What have psychologists gained from brain studies so far? Theoretical Gains and their Practical Implications: Lateralisation of function:
1. Studies concerning the localization of function date back to Brocas case studies in 1861. 2. However, with the beginning of split brain studies by Gazzaniga and Sperry came the study of the lateralisation of function.

3. Specific abilities such have been associated with each of the 4. Hemispheres the left with speech, writing logic and mathematics, the right with spatial tasks, art, intuition and music. In studying the unique functions of each of the brains hemispheres psychologists have learnt much more about the individual agents working in our brain and the vastly complex integration of these agents: i.e. how they communicate and work together to perform the functions of the brain as a whole.

Medicine and therapeutics:

Currently some of the most incurable diseases are neurological as the brain and nervous system is one of the least well understood in the human body. The insight split brain studies have provided about the integration of independent agents in the different systems of our brain provides us with a much higher level of detail as to how the brain functions. It also allows neurologists to develop the sophistication of their models for various processes, properties or functions of the brain such as memory, emotional experiences or perception. Knowing more about the of mechanisms of brain functions and processes will allow pharmaceutical and therapeutic researchers alike to better develop solutions for the disorders caused by abnormalities in specific neurological systems. We are all potential beneficiaries of progress on diseases that are more common as we age, such as Alzheimers disease

Real world example: Treatments for reading disabilities

A Yale study (Liberman 2007) describes how the knowledge of the lateralisation of linguistic abilities provided great insight into the processes of reading and the associated disabilities. The greater understanding of disabilities such as dyslexia allows the psychologists to better target research and development of techniques to treat the disorder. For the full study document, see: e.g. greater knowledge of interaction of different parts of the brain in the formation of memories may help researchers pin-point which communication links or agents are most likely to cause Alzeihmers if they deteriorate and guide them towards cures or better treatments.

In the video below Michael Gazzaniga speaks about the progress, gains and conclusions that have been made in split-brain research:

Cerebral dominance:
Split-brain studies have highlighted the tendency for one hemisphere to dominate in an individual. This may affect their personality or influence their strengths and weaknesses. Studies have also suggested that that certain lateralised functions, such as motor abilities, can correlate to an individuals hemispheric dominance. Being right or left handed for example is believed to correlate to which one of someones hemispheres is dominant. Activity: Complete the survey on handedness to investigate hemispheric dominance:
Hemispheric dominance questionnaire:

Class Survey: Can we identify indicators of hemispheric dominance in our own class? Based on the general abilities or strengths attributed to the left and right hemispheres? Significance: These correlates indicators have also been suggested to play a role in determining hemispheric dominance, providing insight into developmental psychology. e.g. it has been suggested that training a child to be ambidextrous would balance hemispheric dominance. Gender differences: Evidence from split-brain studies has suggested the brains of women and men differ in their organisation and the processing of information e.g.: Women have a proportionally larger corpus callosum, suggesting a better communication between the hemispheres overall. Women have been found to have higher densities of neurons in areas associated with language (such as the temporal cortex) whilst men have been found to have a greater right-brain dominance (associated with superior performance in spatial tasks). Studies such as that by Cahill (2007) have shown that the process of recalling and forming emotional memories is lateralised differently in men and women. See: for the full study.
Men are from Mars, Women from Venus: Split brain studies are revealing gender related differences in the organisation of the brain and paths of information processing.

Significance: The long-neglected gender differences in psychology and neurobiology are everimportant factors that must be considered when making theoretical generalisations in psychological studies or in developing therapies or medicines to treat disorders. The differences highlighted by split-brain studies will prove very important in guiding these considerations.

The Question of Consciousness: One of the most challenging and fundamental question in psychology today is that of consciousness. Check out this video for some current theories of other scientific disciplines on consciousness: In contrast to the dualist theories in the video above, psychologists of the Biological LOA generally hold materialist and monist approaches to the subject. Consciousness had been suggested by Sperry and Gazzaniga to be an emergent property resulting from the sum of the interactions of the individual agents. However, Gazzaniga believes that this is brought together in a reasoned theory, somewhere in the left-brain he labels the interpreter see the last minute of the first video above for details. Because split-brain research studies the integration of the brains individual elements, which ultimately leads to consciousness, it continues to provide great insight into the fundamental question of consciousness.

A few final tentative evaluation points:

Although split-brain studies have provided great insights in the areas, the generalisation of findings can be limited by the following: Significant individual variation exists for the lateralisation of function. Handedness and other indicators of hemispheric dominance have been criticised for small and changing correlation. Split-brain studies have largely been ethical as they draw from snowball samples pools of patients already operated on to relieve a condition. There are other factors that can affect personality and that play a role in questions such as consciousness. A whole explanation of some of the topics explored through split-brain studies is best attained from a holistic approach.

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9. "Consciousness." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. Web. 10. Consciousness." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. IEP. Web. 02 Nov. 2009. 11. Gazzaniga, Michael. "The Split Brain Revisited." Web. 12. Liberman, Isabelle Y. "SpringerLink - Journal Article." SpringerLink. Web. 13. "Severed Corpus Callosum." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 14. "Split-Brain Patients." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 15. Paul Broca. (2009). In Encyclopdia Britannica. Retrieved August 2012 from EncyclopdiaBritannicaOnline 16. The Study of brain function in the nineteenth century. Retrieved August 2012 from: 17. Hoiland, Erin. "Brain Plasticity." Neuroscience For Kids. University of Washington, August 2012