Roger Sperry’s Split Brain Experiments (1959–1968)
In the 1950s and 1960s, Roger Sperry performed experiments on cats, monkeys, and humans to study functional differences between the two hemispheres of the brain in the United States. To do so he studied the corpus callosum, which is a large bundle of neurons that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. Sperry severed the corpus callosum in cats and monkeys to study the function of each side of the brain. He found that if hemispheres were not connected, they functioned independently of one another, which he called a split-brain. The split-brain enabled animals to memorize double the information. Later, Sperry tested the same idea in humans with their corpus callosum severed as treatment for epilepsy, a seizure disorder. He found that the hemispheres in human brains had different functions. The left hemisphere interpreted language but not the right. Sperry shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1981for his split-brain research.