link: cerebral hemispheres                                                       

  

                                                      BIOLOGY OF THE WHOLISTIC FUNCTIONING OF THE BRAIN: CEREBRAL HEMISPHERES     

 theme:  The brain is made up of two interconnected 'cerebral hemispheres'  together weighing between three to four pounds. These are located on either side of the brain's central core which extends down to the spinal cord.  The physiological basis for the brain's natural holistic functioning is the interactivity  of  the two 'cerebral hemispheres'.  

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previous to 19th century the cerebral hemispheres were considered to be mirror images...

hemispheric specialisation...   Roger Sperry and split-brain research...

holistic perception...

implications for education...

 

  Brain anatomy  The brain is made up of two interconnected 'cerebral hemispheres' together weighing between three to four pounds. These are located on either side of the brain's central core which extends down to the spinal cord. It was believed until the 19th century that the cerebral hemispheres were symmetrical and that each was a mirror image of the other. This traditional view of the brain was challenged in a medical report presented in 1836 by the French medical doctor, Marc Dax. His clinical studies of brain damaged patients indicated that loss of speech  'aphasia' was correlated with damage to the left hemisphere. No loss of speech resulted when the right hemisphere was damaged. On the basis of these findings, Dax concluded that the speech function is controlled by the left hemisphere and that each hemisphere of the brain controls different functions. Although given little attention at the time, Marc Dax's report was corroborated twenty five years later... in 1861... by French surgeon and neuroanatomist Paul Broca.  Broca's name was used to designate the region of the left cerebral hemisphere which is associated with speech  - 'Broca's area'. Designation of Broca's area to speech led to further attempts were made to assign other different brain functions to specific brain areas. It turned out later that as an approach to an understanding of the brain, localization of brain functions was  considered to be too simplistic.  

It wasn’t until the middle of the twentieth century that a new approach to the study of brain functioning was made possible.

 Roger Sperry and 'split-brain' research ... In the 1940s and 1950s a new approach was made possible with the introduction of a surgical procedure devised to alleviate the seizures of epileptic patients. The procedure, known as 'commissurotomy', involved the severing of the fibers or 'commissures' connecting the two cerebral hemispheres. Severing the largest band of fibers, the corpus callosum, resulted in the the brain's normal functioning but with subtle changes of behaviour under specific experimental conditions. the 'split-brain procedure' provided an experimental system for the study of the functioning of the cerebral hemispheres. In the l960s and l970s the 'split-brain system' was utilised by Dr. Roger Sperry at the California Institute of Technology in his left brain/right brain research experiments in a study of brain functions . Sperry showed that each of the two hemispheres is specialized for unique brain functions and for the processing of information related to those functions.

The right and left hemispheres are each associated with unique functions... 'hemispheric specialisation' significant physiological basis of brain-based learning. 

Hemispheric specialisation The two specialized hemispheres are connected by way of interconnecting nerve fibers called the 'commissures'. The largest band of commisures - the corpus callosum - functions in the relay of information between the two hemispheres. Each of the two hemispheres processes separate information. Specialisation of the hemispheres, 'hemisphericity', is based on the way in which incoming stimuli are processed. The left hemisphere is characterised by a analytic detail, verbal expression, ability to articulate, critical and logical logical, sequential mode of processing stimuli or 'sequential thinking'. It is engaged in those mental activites which deal with words, numbers, and language - verbal expression and articulation, thinking skills of criticism, logic and analysis. The right hemisphere is characterised by an intuitive, holistic, simultaneous, and parallel mode of processing. It is engaged in those mental activities which deal with images, visual patterns, and spatial relationships. The brain's potential for learning is a function of the interdependent and integrated functioning of the left and right hemispheres. Hemispheric specialization is integrated by way of the large interconnecting fibers, the commissures, including the large 'corpus callosum' which functions in the relay of information between the two hemispheres. Interaction between the two results in the processing of the information as a whole. This results in the integral functioning of the brain as a whole. Its functioning allows for the interaction of the specialized functions of the hemispheres. Interaction between the hemispheres results in the integration of their functions. Interaction and integration of the cerebral hemispheres is the physiological basis for the brain's ability to process information which relates to specific brain functions and at the same time to its function as a whole.  

The brain has a natural capacity for perception of the whole or 'holistic perception' The brain perceives and processes parts and wholes simultaneously. The parts and wholes interact - the parts containthe whole and the whole contains the parts. It is the interconnectedness of the specialized hemispheres which provides for the integral functioning of the brain. The brain is activated as a whole. The brain processes wholes. The two brain hemispheres interact and the activity of the brain as a whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts. In its attempt to make meaning of the environment, the brain responds 'holistically' to environmental stimuli, perceiving and creating connections between parts and the whole. The brain has a natural capacity for 'holistic perception'. The brain's natural capacity for holistic perception is based on the interactivity of the two cerebral hemispheres via the corpus collosum. As a result of the interconnectedness of the hemispheres, the brain is activated as a whole and Its functioning is integrated. The brain's function as meaning maker is a natural physiological process of information processing  or 'learning'. The brain's potential for learning is based on the interdependent and integrated functioning of the left and right hemispheres. As the basis for the holistic functioning of the brain, the integrated functioning of the specialized  cerebral hemispheres is of paramount significance to a holistic brain-based learning theory.

The brain's potential for learning is a function of the interdependent and integrated functioning of the left and right hemispheres.         

Results of Sperry's work are particularly significant for education...

The activity of the brain as a whole involves more than the sum of its individual parts. The brain perceives and processes parts and wholes simultaneously. Brain research indicates that parts and wholes interact. The interactivity of the two hemispheres constitutes the physiological basis for the brain's natural wholistic perspective. The brain can deal with the interconnected, interpenetrating 'holographic' world. The part contains the whole and the whole contains the parts. All knowledge is embedded in other knowledge. The interconnections between various parts of the brain make this possible. The brain is described as 'holographic' or 'global' or 'interconnected.' For education it is crucial to understand the global nature of the functioning of the brain.

 Implications for education Interaction between the two results in the processing of the information as a whole... accounts for the integral functioning of the brain as a whole. The activity of the brain as a whole involves more than the sum of its individual parts. The brain perceives and processes parts and wholes simultaneously. Brain research indicates that parts and wholes interact. The interactivity of the two hemispheres constitutes the physiological basis for the brain's natural wholistic perspective.

The brain's potential for learning is a function of the interdependent and integrated functioning of the left and right hemispheres.

 It is crucial to understand the global nature of brain functioning or holistic perception. The physiological basis for the brain's natural capacity for holistic perception is specialization of the cerebral hemispheres (brain laterality) and their interaction. The brain's natural holistic functioning is based on the interactivity and the integrated functioning of the two cerebral hemispheres. Effective pedagogical methods account for the brain's capacity for the simultaneous perception of parts and wholes. Teaching and learning strategies account for the fact that the simultaneous perception of parts and wholes is the basis for understanding. The simultaneous perception of parts and wholes is necessary for the understanding of the interrelationships between the component parts of a whole and for the understanding of the parts to the whole. Teaching methods which account for the physiological basis of holistic thinking are brain-based and effective in the learning process. The global presentation of subject matter is conducive to the global functioning of the brain (global method)... 'brain-based learning'... 'holistic education'.

 

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notes:

 Sperry explored how nerve circuits grow to specific places in the brain which is structured according to a  genetic code. Understanding how nerves grow is about as fundamental as things get in learning

References:

Renate Nummela Caine and Geoffrey Caine, Making Connections Alexandria, Va. ASCD, 1991

 Fischbach, Gerald  "Mind and Brain", Scientific American, 267: 3, Sept 1992, 48.

 

 

Roger Sperry "The Growth of Nerve Circuits," Scientific American 201, (1959): 68-75  He explored how nerve circuits grow to specific places in the brain. The brain is structured by the genetic code. Understanding how nerves grow is about as fundamental as things get in learning