As often is the case in science, the study of unique phenomenon canprovide a wealth of knowledge and information about normal occurrences.This is true with regard to case studies of both split brain patientsand conjoined twins. The unique experiences of these patients havecontributed a great deal to our understanding of how the brain functionsin a range of both normal and extraordinary circumstances.
Split brain patients are people who have had surgery to cut thecorpus callosum, which you may recall, is the main pathway connectingthe two halves of the cortex. Often this procedure was done toalleviate symptoms of epilepsy. These patients acted normal enough sothat for the first few years after such surgeries were performed,physicians reported that there were no consequences of the procedure.Over the years, however, careful behavioral studies revealed that thesepatients appeared to have two minds at work in one body. One mind,mediated by the left hemisphere, could talk and respond to questions,while the other mind, in the right hemisphere, could only communicateby gestures and action. Remarkably, the left brain seemed to be unawarethat another mind controlled half of the body.
In the case of dicephalic parapagus conjoined twins, (twins whoshare a body but have separate brains) it is clear that there are twominds because there are two separate brains and each of them cancommunicate. In craniopagus conjoined twins, there are two separatebodies but a shared brain or portions of brain.
The range of behavior, from relatively normal to unique, of splitbrain patients and conjoined twins raises questions about what it meansto be a “person.” For this week’s Discussion, you compare and contrastsplit brain patients and conjoined twins, and explore what “personhood”means in light of what these patients can teach us about the brain andits functions.
With these thoughts in mind:
Post an explanation of how split-brainpatients demonstrate the organization of the brain. Then, describe twosimilarities and two differences between split brain patients andconjoined twins. Finally, define “personhood” in your own words as itrelates to split brain patients or conjoined twins and use the currentliterature to support your definition. Support your postings andresponses with specific references to the literature and LearningResources.
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