The Split Brain: Me, Myself, and I… And Who Else?

The Split Brain: Me, Myself, and I... And Who Else?

Zaida LaRose

What exactly makes us us? Who is “I”? For thousands of years, one of the biggest and most fascinating mysteries in science has been consciousness. It has always been thought that your brain could only contain one form of consciousness, one you. However, recent studies show that the brain functions in a very interesting way after being split in half, raising the question, is it really just me in there?

Epileptic shock is caused by the two hemispheres of the brain sending signals to one another, and neurologists have discovered that by severing the corpus callosum – a group of neuronal fibres that separate the two halves of the brain – epileptic seizures are prevented. This process is called “corpus callosotomy”. After conducting the surgery, scientists observed the ‘split-brain’ patients to determine how the operation affected their brain. Initially, the patients exhibited completely normal behavior. However, it soon appeared as though the two hemispheres of the brain were contradicting, as if they were two independent minds within the same body. The left brain provides the ability for speech and communication, while the right brain is responsible for facial-recognition as well as spatial and visual synthesizing. The right hemisphere controls and processes the left side of the body, and vice versa. Using special glasses, neurologists showed the right eye of a split-brain patient a simple question, the patient spoke their answer accordingly. The same question was then asked to the left eye, and because the right hemisphere does not control speech, the patient was asked to arrange scrabble tiles to answer the question. The patient’s two answers were completely different. This lead neurologists to believe that the brain actually contains a “dichotomous consciousness,” or two separate forms of consciousness.

This is a tremendous leap in the world of neuroscience. Scientists are constantly discovering more and more about the human brain, and there is no telling what we will uncover in the future.