Dr. Michael Gazzaniga – Left Brain vs. Right Brain. We often hear that if we’re creative we must be “right-brained” but if we’re logical we must be “left-brained”. Science tells us that each hemisphere controls certain cognitive functions, so it only makes sense that there is a dominant side that gives us our tendencies – but is it true? Are we either “left-brained” or “right brained”? Or better yet, what happens when you disconnect the two regions from each other entirely? For over 40 years, our guest this week has been studying patients who have had their left and right brain disconnected via surgery, and he is here to set the record straight.
Michael Gazzaniga, is one of the leading researchers in cognitive neuroscience and is the worlds top expert on split-brain research. Michael is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of Tales from Both Sides of the Brain: A Life in Neuroscience.
He received a Ph.D. in psychobiology from the California Institute of Technology, where he worked under the guidance of Roger Sperry, with primary responsibility for initiating human split-brain research. In his subsequent work he has made important advances in our understanding of functional lateralization in the brain and how the cerebral hemispheres communicate with one another.
Gazzaniga founded the Centers for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of California, Davis and at Dartmouth College, the Neuroscience Institute, and the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, of which he is the Editor-in-Chief Emeritus. Gazzaniga was a member of U.S. President George W. Bush’s Council on Bioethics. He was also the Director of the Law and Neuroscience Project, a project to study the intersection of law and neuroscience.
“The brain is built for us all to make decisions to achieve goals.”
– Michael Gazzaniga
Quotes from Michael:
[shadowbox]”The two half brains are connected through a structure called the corpus callosum. It’s literally a bundle of neurons that connect what are called homotopic points. You can think of it as an updating wire to the two half brains.”
“We discovered something that we call the interpreter in the left hemisphere. It’s this thing that keeps trying to make sense out of the behaviors we carry out and the emotions we feel. It builds a story as to why we are experiencing those.”
“You think you have one unitary mind, and that’s who you are and you have a narrative about it. Now a surgeon comes in and disconnects your hemispheres (this is split brain surgery), and when you wake up from the surgery 12 hours later you would have 2 minds!”
“There are people who tend to be more creative, that’s true. There are other people who are happy when you show them a table of numbers. These processes require communication between hemispheres in many cases.”
“Scientists aren’t these isolated weirdos living in an Ivory Tower.”[/shadowbox]
What we learn in this episode:
- Is there such things as left brain and right brain people?
- Why can our brain function fairly normally when it is essentially cut in half?
- What is split brain research?
- What happens when our brain is split in the middle (split brain surgery), disconnecting the left and right hemisphere?
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