Surgeons Used To Split Brains For Epilepsy Treatment, And Here’s Why That’s So Freaky
If there’s one thing you can say about medical science, it’s that we develop new treatments at an almost incomprehensibly fast pace. That being said, state-of-the-art medical treatments today might be considered brutal a few short decades from now.
For evidence of this axiom, we need only look back at how we used to treat diseases like epilepsy. Doctors used to opt for a type of brain surgery that involved severing the neural connection between the two hemispheres of the brain.
Fittingly, the procedure was known as split-brain surgery.
The process involved opening up a patient’s brain and severing the corpus callosum, which is the main connection between the two hemispheres. With this connection gone, not only were symptoms of epilepsy reduced, but other strange things began to happen, like the development of split-brain syndrome.
In those suffering from split-brain syndrome, the right hemisphere of the brain, which controls the left hand and foot, acts independently of the left hemisphere and impacts the person’s ability to make rational decisions.
Researchers Michael Gazzaniga and Roger W. Sperry were among the first physicians to study split-brain syndrome, and their findings were pretty disturbing.
What they found is that in individuals with split-brain syndrome, because the different sides of the brain weren’t communicating, developed what seemed like split personalities. The left side of the brain would give orders that reflected the person’s rational goals, and the right side of the brain would would issue conflicting orders that revealed the person’s hidden desires.
Let’s meet some of the patients Gazzaniga and Sperry studied.
One was a child who managed to develop speech centers in both sides of his brain. This allowed them to question him by basically talking to each half of the brain separately. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, the right side said race car driver, while the left side said draftsman. Another patient was caught in a loop of his left hand pulling his pants down and his right hand pulling them back up. That same patient often had to stop his left hand from trying to hit his unsuspecting wife.
While these developments are rare, they do happen. Luckily, split-brain surgery is now only a last resort for treating epilepsy and it’s safer than it used to be.
For more information about this strange phenomenon, check out the video below.
(via Psychology Today)
The human brain is an amazing piece of biological machinery. I can’t wait to see what other breakthroughs will find their way down the medical pipeline over the next few years.
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