Saturday, November 20, 2004

Split Brains

Brad Templeton runs a fun blog, absolutely FULL of cool ideas. In his really fascinating and exciting latest, Brad considers the surprising independence of the two hemispheres of the human brain. The left brain and the right brain are connected by a series of neural channels called the corpus callosum. In rare cases, usually having to do with severe epilepsy, the corpus callosum is intentionally severed, resulting in a fascinating dual-brain individual. the left and right brains are literally unable to communicate, and *know different things*. It's really fascinating and shocking and surprising, and challenges a lot of our assumptions about personal identity. Anyway, that's all background, and is known by anyone who's ever taken a course in human neurospychology. Now Brad's insight:
It seems plausible one could apply a temporary anesthetic to the corpus callosum, and temporarily split a person into two brains. Today that might require drastic steps like brain surgery. In the future it's not hard to imagine a specialized drug or highly targetted drug delivery or nanobots to temporarily numb and disable the zone, without too much shutdown of adjacent tissue.
Ever since learning about split-brain patients, I've been fascinated by the possibility, and wondered what it would be like to experience life that way. Brad's idea seems non-absurd. We could study the phenomenon in a much more controlled way, using Brad's suggested technique. Students would volunteer in labs to have their brains split. I sit here and wonder what it would be like for me to undergo that procedure, but I guess I should wonder what it'd be like for *us*. It boggles a mind. Maybe both.

1 comment:

  1. Cool, but it would NEVER get IRB approval. Why are all the fun experiments always the "unethical" ones? :(