The Contribution Of Split Brain Studies To Our Understanding Of Brain Functioning

1349 words - 5 pages

Understanding brain functioning has been a complex phenomena in the field of Biopsychology yielding mountains of research, speculation and differing opinions amongst researchers. Obvious is that, which our brains are comprised up from two hemispheres, the right and the left (in Gazzaniga., 2002). With great scrutiny research has successfully demonstrated that the two hemispheres are highly specialized regions serving differing functions; a concept referred to as lateralization of function (in Passer, Smith, Holt, Bremner, Sutherland & Vliek 2009). For example, the left hemisphere is responsible for speech production whilst the right hemisphere deals with the comprehension of emotional responses. It is also the case that the right hemisphere governs the left side of the body and the left hemisphere governs the right side of the body with the brain displaying contralateral control (in Passer et al., 2009). A common misconception exhibited by most is that the brain acts as a whole, rather the brain is performs on a unitary level with independent functions (in Pinel., 2009).
Because the two cerebral hemispheres are known to communicate via the corpus callosum(in Pinel., 2009) researchers have been particularly intrigued with the idea of what happens when the communication between these hemispheres are disrupted. The corpus callosum is a bridge of nerve tissues in the brain which acts as a communication base (in Pinel., 2009). Damage to the corpus callosum results in a split brain, a situation where the neural connections in the brain are severed resulting in lost mental abilities. The consequences of these lost mental abilities can be demonstrated through a large number of split brain studies with the help two prominent researchers, Gazzaniga & Sperry (1967 in Gazzaniga., 2002).
Prior to studying human patients, Myers & Sperry (1953 in Pinel., 2009) experimented with cats in an attempt to find deficits after cutting a proportion of the corpus callosum as he was startled to find that non-human animals such as monkeys who had undergone this procedure displayed no differences or inconsistencies in their behaviour and mental abilities and that individuals born without or a damaged corpus collosum appeared to be perfectly normal (in Pinel., 2009) Fundamental to their experiment was their curiosity of whether each hemisphere could function independently and whether the function of the corpus callosum was to transfer information between the two hemispheres following corpus callosotomy. Their study consisted of four groups of cats; 1) corpus callosum severed, 2) optic chiasm severed, 3) corpus callosum and optic chiasm severed and 4)intact controls. In phase 1 of the experiment, all cats had a patch over one eye and learned a lever-press discrimination task; all four groups learned this task. In phase 2, the patch was switched to the other eye. They found that the cats in the corpus-callosum-severed group, optic-chiasm-severed group and control group...

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