YOU GUYS. PHINEAS GAGE.
A tamping iron went straight through his head and he survived. One of the first cases where people correlated brain damage with personality changes.
And apparently he was quite handsome.
An important thing to keep in mind is that while split brain patients have divided abilities, those are not present in people who have an intact corpus callosum. These split brain studies led to the ideas of left or right brained people, which isn’t really a thing. We use both sides of our brain, all the time, seamlessly. I’m going to direct you to a great article in the Yale Scientific Magazine about this myth: http://www.yalescientific.org/2012/04/left-brain-right-brain-an-outdated-argument/
An excerpt: “I am definitely a left-brained person — I am not very artistic.” How many times have we characterized ourselves as either left-brained and logical people or right-brained and creative people? This popular myth, which conjures up an image of one side of our brains crackling with activity while the other lies dormant, has its roots in outdated findings from the 1970s, and it seems to imply that humans strongly favor using one hemisphere over the other. More recent findings have shown that although there are indeed differences between the hemispheres, they may not be as clear-cut as we once thought.
Our personalities and abilities are not determined by favoring one hemisphere over the other — that much is certain. Many other functions, however, such as response to danger and language generation, are lateralized in the brain. Researchers hypothesize that these differences arose from early vertebrates. Originally, it seems that the right hemisphere began to respond more quickly to danger. In fact, when we are suddenly confronted by a dangerous stimulus, we will respond more quickly with our left hand, which is controlled by the right hemisphere. The left hemisphere, on the other hand, has developed to handle more common, routine tasks, such as feeding and hand control. Since this hemisphere controls the right hand, a strong right-handed preference has arisen in most of us, providing one explanation of why most people are right-hand dominant.
The brain isn’t just beautiful, it’s fascinating. From neuroeconomist Jordan Silberman’s talk at TEDxFlourCity, during which he describes how an EEG tied to a simple visual feedback system can allow users to exercise and improve their everyday ability to exact self-control:
What’s going on in the brain when someone chooses carrots over cookies?…That used to be a black box…Fortunately, researchers have recently opened that box.
…We used to think of self-control as, you know, an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other shoulder to battle it out—and that’s what determines behavior. But we now know that self-control… isn’t a magical, metaphysical phenomenon—self-control is a tangible, physiological process that we should be able to intervene on.
Many people believe that self-control is fixed; that you’re born with a certain level of self-control: there’s not much you can do to change that. And before we knew much about self-control—that was probably true. But we’re learning more and more, and self-control is becoming more malleable. [We have created] and I suspect that we’ll soon have widespread access to technologies…that will allow people to exercise the neural mechanisms underlying self-control…and that’s going to allow people to transcend the limitations of their innate levels of self-control.
oh you magnificent brain….it would be great if we could get on the same page.
BRAIN BRAIN BRAIN BRAIN BRAIN!!!! :DDDDD
I think the cerebellum is one of the prettiest parts of the brain (for basic anatomy, go here). This is an image of the cerebellum showing purkinje cells in yellow and their outputs (axons that will take the information to the brain) in red. For more information about the cerebellum and purkinje cells, check out my post here. I love this image- all you can see is neurons, but you can see how compact they are on the outer layers of the tissue (just like cortex! They make up the gray matter.) and how the axons travel in the middle parts (just like the rest of the brain! They make up the white matter).
Cerebellar purkinje cells
The cerebellum, its name meaning “little brain” in Latin, really does look like a smaller brain located just below the back of the occipital lobe. The cerebellum is often ignored in research (MRI researchers are especially guilty of ignoring activations back there). It seems to be involved in coordination and balance, but likely has other purposes as well.
In cross-section, the cerebellum itself looks like a tree, and the neurons inside of it (purkinje cells, named after the anatomist who first studied them) are definitely very tree-like. You can see the yellow neurons here have some big extensions like a tree trunk and then many, many branches off of them, just like trees do. It’s less obvious how very tree like they are in this image as they cover and overlap each other, but I thought this picture was beautiful nonetheless!
I LOVE THE CEREBELLUM. I love the whole brain, really. It is just so beautiful.
Stanford neuroscientists host the world’s first love competition, asking contestants between the ages of 10 and 75 to spend 5 minutes in an fMRI machine thinking deeply about the person they love. The results are certain to bring a tear to your eye.
Complementary reading: 5 essential books on the psychology of love.
A healthy human brain (left) compared to the brain of a 90 year old (right) which is only two thirds the size of the young brain. Over time, white matter decreases and the brain shrinks. This gradual shrinkage is most extreme between age 70 and 80.