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Split Brain Research

Author: Muriel Gerhard
Topics: Middle School

Grade Level: 8th; Type: Neuroscience/Biology

Objective:

To use a variety of sources to conduct research on the phenomenon of split brain surgery and the impact it had on current advances in the neurosciences.  

Research Questions:

  • How are the two hemispheres of the brain differentiated from each other?
  • What is meant by the term contralateral? Which side of the brain controls which side of the body?
  • What is a split brain?
  • What is the function of the corpus callosum and where is it found?
  • What is a corpus callosotomy?
  • What causes intractable epilepsy?
  •  What are the classic symptoms of epilepsy?
  • What did the famous studies conducted in the 1960s by Dr. Roger Sperry tell us about the functions of the hemispheres?
  • Of what practical value are the results of Split Brain Research?

On the information level, you will be introduced to the anatomy of the brain and the functions of the left and right hemispheres and their connecting structure, the corpus callosum. The corpus callosum serves as a channel of communication between the two hemispheres so that they complement each other. It is the corpus callosum that tells each hemisphere what the other is doing.  No, Virginia, we do not have two brains. You will become acquainted with the specific functions of the two hemispheres which resulted from the major work of Dr. Roger Sperry in the area of split brain surgery. This procedure, known as corpus callosotomy, the severing or partial cutting of the corpus callosum has been employed to counter act the spread of epilepsy, a severe electrical disturbance to one the side of the body. In order to prevent that electrical disturbance from attacking the other side of the body, the corpus callosum was severed.  In the process, very significant findings were discovered as to the specific functions of the right and left hemispheres as well as their complementary, cooperative actions.  What was surprising was that initially, these patients, called split brain patients appeared to be normal in all aspects of their lives. However, as you will discover, this was not the case.  

In the process of reading the studies and the accounts based on these studies, you will become junior researchers learning about the key processes involved in conducting research yielding significant, valid, reliable findings. In reviewing the research of others you will learn to become better researchers and better judges of the research findings and outcomes.  You will be able to recognize bogus claims as opposed to real research by authentic researchers. Four out of five dentists recommend X toothpaste will no longer convince you of this “fact”!

Materials:

texts and research studies directly related to split brain research and the function of the corpus callosum,

the use of the internet including movies of actual split brain patients and possible interviews with doctors and individuals and health organizations supporting and dealing with the investigation and study of epilepsy.  

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