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Split Brain

People are intelligent creatures that can walk, run, eat, talk, think, and who do many things unconsciously. What is the power behind all these? What makes us run when we feel we are late for school, or what makes us want to eat when we are hungry? Who or what gives this decision? All these questions have a simple and easy answer: it is the head and powerful part of human body, brain. Brain is the decision-making organ that leads us to do everything we need to survive. Brain is the boss of our body. It runs the show and controls just about everything you do, even when you are asleep. Not bad for something that looks like a big, wrinkly, gray sponge.[1]

Brain has many parts that control our body and our movements. First of all, it has two parts that have their own specialties. Each of these main parts is called ‘hemispheres’. Hemispheres that let us control our movements and feelings directly communicate and convey their own data via corpus callosum. Corpus callosum is the connecting part of our brain that unites the hemispheres. The corpus callosum is a broad, thick band running from side to side and consisting of millions and millions of nerve fibers.[2] In 1960s, this connector was begun to be cut off as a cure for epilepsy that is a kind of storm in brain. This operation brought about the problem of ‘split brain’. After the operation, the patients could still have a normal life and the so-called odd behaviors could only be seen by some special experiments. The hemispheres have also the ability to learn and experience but each has no idea about what the other has done.[3]

In this paper, I will try to show what specialties each cerebral hemisphere has, what are the effects of split brain on human behavior and language performance. I will expand the given data with using different examples and analyzing the experiments done by experts.

2. Specialties of Hemispheres
Brain consists of main two parts called hemispheres. Each hemisphere has its own specialty because there are many parts in brain that have their own specialty. Some of these parts are on the left side of brain and some are on the right. The parts on the left communicate with the ones on the right via corpus collosum which is a connector organ consisting of millions of nerve fibers. Hence, brain does the job it is supposed to do.

The right hemisphere is dominant on spatial abilities, recognizing the faces, visual imagery, and music. On the other hand, the left hemisphere is capable of using language far more effectively, is good at math and prevailing logically. The right side of the body is controlled by the left side of the brain and the left one is controlled by the right side of the brain. In addition, the right hemisphere gathers the sensory information from the left side of the body and vice versa. This is called contralateral.[4]
2.1 The Specialties of Right Hemisphere
"The great pleasure and feeling in my right brain is more than my left brain can find the words to tell you." Roger Sperry[5]

As we can infer from this quotation, the main specialty of right hemisphere is its dominance on understanding things and giving sense to them. In addition, the right hemisphere can only produce simple words and phrases, but it is the basis of emotion to give sense to language. Without the help of right hemisphere, the split brain patient is able to read the word “shark” for example, but he can not be able to imagine what it is.5

The specialties of right hemisphere are not only those, there are many of them. First of all, it focuses on the connection between parts of a whole; dealing with wholeness rather than focusing on its parts or different sides or viewpoints which is called holistic[6]. In that, we use the right side while we are trying to solve picture puzzles. In an experiment, the patient was showed a familiar face of whom probably he loved. It is known that the patient knew her but when he was asked who she was, he couldn’t say a word. Everybody knew that he recognized the face yet he couldn’t put it on words.[7]

The cognitive style of right hemisphere is artistic, and sensitive, instinctive knowledge or understanding which stems from feeling rather than thinking which is called intuitive[8]. The language usage of the right hemisphere is ungrammatical and it has no syntax. In addition, it has poor vocabulary to tell the things it wants to express. Executive capacity of the right hemisphere contains low sense of self and it is low initiative.[9]

2.2 Specialities of Left Hemisphere
The left side of the brain apparently is the basis of language usage. It is in the charge of controlling our ability to express ourselves in language and it speaks much better than the right side. It has good grammar and syntax also has rich vocabulary to express itself in language. This hemisphere is dominant on recognizing sequences of words and letters. It is the basis of our logic, our reasoning, and our analytical thought processes. The left hemisphere focuses on details, however it lacks ability to combine the parts to comprehend the whole picture.[10] For example, in an experiment the patient was shown again the face of whom he knew. When he was asked who she was or what he saw, he just said “I saw a face” which means that he couldn’t recognize the owner of the face. He just focused on the details, which are the nose, mouth, cheek that construct the face. So, he expressed himself seeing just a face. He couldn’t comprehend the whole and recognize her.[11]

The cognitive style of left hemisphere is rational and logical. In addition, the executive capacity of left hemisphere is initiative, it has sense of self and it makes self-analysis, examines of its own thoughts and feelings, which is called introspection.[12]

3. The effects of Split Brain on Behavior and Language

3.1 The effects on Behavior
As each side of the brain has its own specialties, being a split-brain patient has simple effects. The hemispheres can no longer communicate and influence differing opinions, emotions, or desires of each other because the connector, corpus callosum, was cut off, and there had been no longer a connection between two hemispheres. One of the effects of it is seen explicitly in an event one patient has experienced. The patient told that one day while he was trying to pull up his pants with right hand, he found his left hand trying to pull the pants down.[13]

Another example of existence of split-brain effects on behavior is that a split-brain patient told that one day he was angry with his wife and he attacked her with his left hand while his right hand was protecting her.[14] We can see the clear effect of being split-brain. The right side of the brain was angry and wanted to give harm to his wife but the left side was unaware of the angriness of the right side so it wanted to protect her.

On another occasion, the patient was shown an ice cream to his left eye, right side of his brain. Firstly, he was asked to say what he saw on the screen when the thing was flashed on it, and then to pick up the thing behind the screen. Once he saw the ice cream he desired to taste it but he said that “I saw nothing on the screen” instead “I’d like to have it”. He was also asked for to pick up what he saw, so he picked up the ice cream but said “why did I pick up this ice cream?”.[15] That is a clear effect of split brain on a human behavior, isn’t it?

3.2 The effects on Language usage
The split-brain patients because of the hemispheres not communicating with each other, as we see in the experiences about the patients was affected directly. If we evaluate the ice cream experiment, we can see the effect of it when the patient said “I saw nothing on the screen” and “why did I pick up this ice cream”, however the patient also knew he saw the ice cream and wanted to say he would like to have it with his right side of the brain but the left side that didn’t see the ice cream on screen because it was shut when it was shown to the right eye said “why did I pick up this ice cream?”. That is because there is no connection and interference of the hemispheres. The usage of language, therefore, was affected by split brain.

4. Conclusion
To come to the point, the brain is the boss in human beings, it is divided into two cerebral hemispheres each of which has its own different functions, and they normally are connected with each other via corpus callosum. Left hemisphere is dominant on language usage with rich vocabulary, good grammar, and syntax. It also can solve the mathematical problems that are a bit more complex than the ones the right side can solve. In addition, the left side has the power of logic in itself. The right side of the brain has dominance on recognizing faces, shapes, and pictures as a whole. It also contributes emotion to the language and it is effective on spatial abilities and music.

When the hemispheres are cut off as a cure for epilepsy, the split-brain problem occurs. The right side cannot transport its data, feelings, its reflections for the things it sees to the left side to express its thoughts. Besides, the left hemisphere has not ability to give emotional tone to the things it can say with grammatically well organized and syntactically good sentences including many vocabularies.

[1]Zaoutis, B.Lisa (May 2005), The Brain is The Boss, retrieved 25 Jan. 07, from
[2]The Human Corpus Callosum, retrieved 25 Jan. 07, from
[3] The split brain experiments, retrieved 25 Jan. 07, from
[4] One Brain or Two, retrieved 25 Jan. 07, from
[5] The Split Brain experiment, retrieved 25 Jan 07, from
[6] Specialization of Two Hemispheres, retrieved 25 Jan. 07, from
[8] Specialization of Two Hemispheres, retrieved 25 Jan. 07, from
[9] See 8
[10] See 8
[11] See 7
[12] See 8
[13]Behavior of Split Brain Patients, retrieved 25Jan. 07, from
[14] See 13
[15] See 13


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