Split Brain Project Summary

This summer I had the opportunity to explore a topic that I became interested in during my freshman year at William and Mary, which is the corpus callosotomy, more commonly known as split brain surgery. This is when the brain is surgically cut into two halves. In my freshman seminar, it was briefly mentioned as a rare option for treating patients with epilepsy, and I was curious to find out more about how this procedure works in the brain and how it can put a stop to debilitating seizures.

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The Corpus Callosotomy Procedure

I myself have never undergone a major surgical procedure. The only time I’ve ever been under anesthesia was to have my wisdom teeth out. Since the only knowledge I had of surgical operations was from what I had seen on the almost certainly inaccurate show Grey’s Anatomy, I decided to look into how the corpus callosotomy, an incredibly serious surgery, is actually carried out. The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh website offered me the information I was looking for.

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A Brief History of Split-Brain Research

As part of my research, I wanted to learn about the history of split-brain discoveries. I read a very interesting article from the scientific journal Nature. This post will cover many of the highlights in the history of discoveries by the leading scientists in split-brain resarch.

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Split-Brain Syndrome

The procedure called the corpus callosotomy involves the severing of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Due to the disconnection of the right hemisphere from the left, the patient will suffer from what is known as split-brain syndrome. This makes the patient incapable of learning any new tasks that involve the independent coordination of both sides of their body. This is because those kinds of tasks would require the left and right hemispheres to communicate and coordinate with one another to create movement. The patient will still be able to perform tasks that they have previously learned and have muscle memory for, like walking, but things such as learning to play the piano are no longer possible. Exceptions to this limitation also include movements the involve one hand copying or mirroring the other (Sand).

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