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Why Was The Split Brain Operation First Performed

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The Story Of The Split Brain Patients

Brain Surgery Live On T.V. 10/23/15

A surgical procedure that cuts through the corpus callosum has provided evidence to support the different specialisations of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This procedure is used very rarely and always as a last resort when someone has frequent and major epileptic seizures that do not respond to drug treatment. The frequency and severity of their epileptic fits is very disabling and their quality of life is poor. The attacks can even be life threatening. In these patients epileptic activity would start in one area of the brain and then spread across the corpus callosum to all areas of the brain. By cutting these connections between the two hemispheres epileptic activity is contained in one hemisphere only. The operation usually leads to a significant decrease in the frequency and severity of the seizures without any apparent interference in normal functioning.

Early researchers were puzzled by the fact that people who had undergone this operation did not show any noticeable changes in behaviour, personality or their scores on intelligence tests despite such extensive surgery. In fact they wondered what the purpose of the corpus callosum was if you could cut through it with so little effect. However careful testing by Roger Sperry and colleagues did uncover behaviour that was far from normal. This work was to gain him a Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1981.

Split Brain Patients What Happens When You Have Two Brains

Despite what you might have thought this does not happen when someone has a splitting headache but is usually the result of a surgery to treat refractory epilepsy. This usually involves cutting through the middle of the brain, known as the corpus callosum, and separating the two halves of the hemispheres effectively leaving the patient with two brains.

Once this operation has been performed we see some remarkable changes to how you can perceive things and some of the results can show you how much we rely on the connection between the two halves of our brain.

Role Of The Corpus Callosum

The corpus callosum is a structure in the brain along the longitudinal fissure that facilitates much of the communication between the two hemispheres. This structure is composed of white matter: millions of axons that have their dendrites and terminal boutons projecting in both the right and left hemisphere. However, there is evidence that the corpus callosum may also have some inhibitory functions. Post-mortem research on human and monkey brains shows that the corpus callosum is functionally organised. It proves that the right hemisphere is superior for detecting faces. This organisation results in modality-specific regions of the corpus callosum that are responsible for the transfer of different types of information. Research has revealed that the anterior midbody transfers motor information, the posterior midbody transfers somatosensory information, the isthmus transfers auditory information and the splenium transfers visual information. Although much of the interhemispheric transfer occurs at the corpus callosum, there are trace amounts of transfer via subcortical pathways.

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What Happens Before A Corpus Callosotomy

Candidates for corpus callosotomy undergo an extensive pre-surgery evaluation — including seizure monitoring, electroencephalography , magnetic resonance imaging , and positron emission tomography . These tests help the doctor pinpoint where the seizures begin and how they spread in the brain. It also helps the doctor determine if a corpus callosotomy is an appropriate treatment.

Two Minds In One Brain

How to Perform Brain Surgery on Yourself

Split-brain patient studies provide interesting insights into the pathways involved in consciousness. It has been well established that for a person in whom the two halves of the cerebrum were surgically separated, the left-oriented side of the cortex is unaware of visual sensation on the right side of the visual world. A word or picture flashed to the left visual field will register on the right side of each retina, and hence will be seen by the right hemisphere only. In these cases the left hemisphere is incapable of verbally describing the stimulus, but it may use the left hand to point in response to questions about the stimulus. This strongly suggests that some of the information associated with consciousness is usually shared via the corpus callosum, but cannot be transmitted via subcortical pathways. Experiments like these, in which the hemispheres of the cortex make separate responses based on different information, suggest that two independent reasoning processes are occurring in a single individual. It seems that their left and right hemispheres can experience different states of consciousness.


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What Is A Corpus Callosotomy

The corpus callosum is a band of nerve fibers located deep in the brain that connects the two halves of the brain. It helps the hemispheres share information, but it also contributes to the spread of seizure impulses from one side of the brain to the other. A corpus callosotomy is an operation that severs the corpus callosum, interrupting the spread of seizures from hemisphere to hemisphere. Seizures generally do not completely stop after this procedure . However, the seizures usually become less severe, as they cannot spread to the opposite side of the brain.

How Is A Corpus Callosotomy Performed

A corpus callosotomy takes place under general anesthesia, which means youre asleep throughout the procedure. Your neurosurgeon will perform a craniotomy, opening the skull to access the brain.

During the procedure, your surgeon:

  • Removes a piece of your skull.
  • Peels back a section of the dura, the tough membrane that protects the brain.
  • Uses surgical microscopes to insert special instruments to locate and cut the corpus callosum.
  • Replaces the dura.
  • Uses stitches or staples to secure the skull bone back into place.

Sometimes, a corpus callosotomy procedure takes place in two stages. During the first stage, your neurosurgeon cuts only the front part of the corpus callosum. This approach allows the two brain sections to continue sharing visual information. If you continue to have frequent, severe seizures, your doctors may consider a second surgery to sever the corpus callosum completely.

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What Is The Split Brain Theory


Keeping this in consideration, what is the split brain experiment?

Roger Sperry’s Split Brain Experiments Sperry severed the corpus callosum in cats and monkeys to study the function of each side of the brain. He found that if hemispheres were not connected, they functioned independently of one another, which he called a splitbrain.

One may also ask, why do I have a split brain? The primary cause of splitbrain syndrome is intentional severing of the corpus callosum, partially or completely, through a surgical procedure known as corpus callosotomy. By preventing the propagation of seizure activity across the hemispheres, corpus callosotomy can greatly improve the patient’s quality of life.

Herein, what is the split brain theory consumer behavior?

In 1974, a theory was developed. That theory detailed that our brains have two separate and fully functional consciousnesses. This is known as the split brain theory. So we now know that our brain is divided into two hemispheres left and right.

When was the first split brain surgery?

The first splitbrain operation was performed on a cat in 1952, combining commissurotomy with division of visual crossover fibers, the optic chiasm, at the base of the brain. Splitbrain cats see and learn with each eye connected to a different hemisphere.

Viicorpus Callosum And Consciousness

First of its kind brain surgery performed in Las Vegas

The study of split-brain patients during the past 40 years has helped change our understanding of the nature of consciousness. It has offered a prime example of the modularization of cognitive processes and documented the distinctions between a dominant and nondominant hemisphere. It has raised the question of whether the callosum may have played a unique role in the development of human consciousness. One of the key observations made regarding the Vogel and Bogen series of commissurotomies was that severing the callosum seemed to yield two separate conscious entities with the ability to respond independently. The idea of a dual consciousness was embraced by some scientists such as Pucetti, who hypothesized that the human condition was always made up of dual-consciousnesses that were only revealed after the section of the callosum. Others rejected the status of the right hemisphere as conscious. Daniel Dennett concluded that the right hemisphere had, at best, a rudimentary self.

Eran Zaidel, in, 1998

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Split Brain Does Not Lead To Split Consciousness

Universiteit van Amsterdam
A new research study contradicts the established view that so-called split-brain patients have a split consciousness. Instead, the researchers behind the study have found strong evidence showing that despite being characterized by little to no communication between the right and left brain hemispheres, split brain does not cause two independent conscious perceivers in one brain.

A new research study contradicts the established view that so-called split-brain patients have a split consciousness. Instead, the researchers behind the study, led by UvA psychologist Yair Pinto, have found strong evidence showing that despite being characterised by little to no communication between the right and left brain hemispheres, split brain does not cause two independent conscious perceivers in one brain. Their results are published in the latest edition of the journal Brain.

Split brain is a lay term to describe the result of a corpus callosotomy, a surgical procedure first performed in the 1940s to alleviate severe epilepsy among patients. During this procedure, the corpus callosum, a bundle of neural fibres connecting the left and right cerebral hemispheres, is severed to prevent the spread of epileptic activity between the two brain halves. While mostly successful in relieving epilepsy, the procedure also virtually eliminates all communication between the cerebral hemispheres, thereby resulting in a split brain.

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Who Is A Candidate For A Corpus Callosotomy

A corpus callosotomy, sometimes called split-brain surgery, may be performed in people with the most extreme and uncontrollable forms of epilepsy, when frequent seizures affect both sides of the brain. People considered for corpus callosotomy are typically those who do not respond to treatment with antiseizure medications.

What Happens During A Corpus Callosotomy


A corpus callosotomy requires exposing the brain using a procedure called a craniotomy. After the patient is put to sleep with anesthesia, the surgeon makes an incision in the scalp, removes a piece of bone and pulls back a section of the dura, the tough membrane that covers the brain. This creates a “window” in which the surgeon inserts special instruments for disconnecting the corpus callosum. The surgeon gently separates the hemispheres to access the corpus callosum. Surgical microscopes are used to give the surgeon a magnified view of brain structures.

In some cases, a corpus callosotomy is done in two stages. In the first operation, the front two-thirds of the structure is cut, but the back section is preserved. This allows the hemispheres to continue sharing visual information. If this does not control the serious seizures, the remainder of the corpus callosum can be cut in a second operation. After the corpus callosum is cut, the dura and bone are fixed back into place, and the scalp is closed using stitches or staples.

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Discussion Of Approximate Number Studies

These results provide support for the possibility that infants primarily represent the approximate numerosity within a single hemifield, rather than integrating across hemispheres. We predicted that the unilateral condition would familiarize infants with 16 dots, whereas the bilateral condition would familiarize them with 8 dots . Depending on the overall quality of infants representations of the briefly presented exemplars, and the rate of change with age, this distinction could result in either overall differences in preference between conditions or modulation of the age trend by condition .

Because of infants demonstrated capacities for flexible combination of numerosities , we expect that merely representing single-hemifield numerosity as an initial step in computing total numerosity would not lead to the observed results. However, it is possible that the position of dots relative to fixation affects perception of grouping, such that infants are more likely to see two groups of eight in the bilateral condition and one group of sixteen in the unilateral condition. This could be addressed directly in further work using grouped test stimuli.

Other Aspects Of Cognition

Split-brain studies have also contributed to the exploration of hemispheric specialization for other aspects of cognition. For instance, a few studies have shown that the left hemisphere is usually more efficient at performing mathematical operations than the right hemisphere, even though both are able to compare numerical representations. There are also evidences that the isolated right hemisphere is superior at making temporal judgments, such as making fine temporal discrimination, which contrast with divided visual field studies of neurologically normal adults suggesting a left-hemisphere advantage. On the other hand, split-brain studies have also helped us understand the contribution of subcortical structures and different portions of the CC. For instance, subcortical structures are able to transfer some information to both isolated hemispheres, such as contextual information and a few aspects of spatial localization.

Charles Watson, … George Paxinos, in, 2010

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Combined Results Of Approximate Number Studies

We conducted additional exploratory analysis to assess the overall condition effect across Experiments 24. Modeling all included trials across these experiments using the same hierarchical linear model as in Experiments 2 and 4 also yields a significant combined effect of TestImage FamiliarizationType and TestImage FamiliarizationType Age terms , driven by a greater preference for 16-dot images in the bilateral condition. Results of this regression are shown in Table 5 estimated marginal means for this model are shown in Figure 9. The effect was similar when excluding trials where parents peeked at stimuli and when using raw looking times . That is, the effect held when considering Experiments 24 together, and was not especially sensitive to the details of exclusion or analysis: bilateral familiarization with the same 16-dot images led to different looking preferences than unilateral familiarization.

Table 5. Summary of hierarchical linear model of log-transformed test trial looking times in seconds for pooled data from Experiments 24.

Figure 9. Interaction plot of estimated marginal means across combinations of familiarization condition and stimulus type over a set of reference ages spanning the tested age range, based on the linear mixed-effects model fitted using unilateral and bilateral familiarization data from Experiments 2, 3, and 4. Shaded error bars show 95% confidence intervals.

Advantages Of Having A Split Brain

Split-brain patient ‘Joe’ being tested with stimuli presented in different visual fields

Often this operation is seen as a bad thing and it does have both positive and negative effects but on thing that you can do better after the operation is performing two tasks at once. A study performed by Rogers et al, 2004 found that when you have two halves of a brain then it increases your ability to both look for food and watch for predators at the same time. Purhaps indicating that the connections between our ancestors brain hemispheres were less developed.

In some rare cases when you have a developed language centre on both the left and right side of the brain then you are able to read two pages of a book at the same time and retain both sets of information. This was found in the case of Kim Peek who as well as a lack of corpus callosum also possessed the ability to speed read and memorise books verbatim.

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What Came Out Of The Split Brain Experiments

The studies demonstrated that the left and right hemispheres are specialized in different tasks. The left side of the brain is normally specialized in taking care of the analytical and verbal tasks. The left side speaks much better than the right side, while the right half takes care of the space perception tasks and music, for example. The right hemisphere is involved when you are making a map or giving directions on how to get to your home from the bus station. The right hemisphere can only produce rudimentary words and phrases, but contributes emotional context to language. Without the help from the right hemisphere, you would be able to read the word “pig” for instance, but you wouldn’t be able to imagine what it is.

Right vision field is connected to the left hemisphere. Left vision field is connected to the right hemisphere.

“The great pleasure and feeling in my right brain is more than my left brain can find the words to tell you.”

Roger Sperry

First published 30 October 2003


What Happens After A Corpus Callosotomy

The patient generally stays in the hospital for two to four days. Most people having a corpus callosotomy will be able to return to their normal activities, including work or school, in six to eight weeks after surgery. The hairà next toà the incision will grow back over the area and hide the surgical scar. The person will continue taking antiseizure drugs.

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Roger Sperrys Split Brain Experiments

In the 1950s and 1960s, Roger Sperry performed experiments on cats, monkeys, and humans to study functional differences between the two hemispheres of the brain in the United States. To do so he studied the corpus callosum, which is a large bundle of neurons that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. Sperry severed the corpus callosum in cats and monkeys to study the function of each side of the brain. He found that if hemispheres were not connected, they functioned independently of one another, which he called a split-brain. The split-brain enabled animals to memorize double the information. Later, Sperry tested the same idea in humans with their corpus callosum severed as treatment for epilepsy, a seizure disorder. He found that the hemispheres in human brains had different functions. The left hemisphere interpreted language but not the right. Sperry shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1981for his split-brain research.

In the 1960s when Sperry conducted his split-brain research on humans, multiple scientists were studying brain lateralization, the idea that one hemisphere of the brain is better at performing some functions than the other hemisphere. However, researchers did not know which tasks each side of the brain was responsible for, or if each hemisphere acted independently from the other.

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