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Biopsychology: Evaluating Split-Brain Research

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 10 Apr 2017

Here are some key evaluation points on split-brain research.

It is assumed that the main advantage of brain lateralisation is that it increases neural processing capacity (the ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously). Rogers et al. (2004) found that in a domestic chicken, brain lateralisation is associated with an enhanced ability to perform two tasks simultaneously (finding food and being vigilant for predators). Using only one hemisphere to engage in a task leaves the other hemisphere free to engage in other functions. This provides evidence for the advantages of brain lateralisation and demonstrates how it can enhance brain efficiency in cognitive tasks.

However, because this research was carried out on animals, it is impossible to conclude the same of humans. Unfortunately, much of the research into lateralisation is flawed because the split-brain procedure is rarely carried out now, meaning patients are difficult to come by. Such studies often include very few participants, and often the research takes an idiographic approach. Therefore, any conclusions drawn are representative only of those individuals who had a confounding physical disorder that made the procedure necessary. This is problematic as such results cannot be generalised to the wider population.

Furthermore, research has suggested that lateralisation changes with age. Szaflarki et al. (2006) found that language became more lateralised to the left hemisphere with increasing age in children and adolescents, but after the age of 25, lateralisation decreased with each decade of life. This raises questions about lateralisation, such as whether everyone has one hemisphere that is dominant over the other and whether this dominance changes with age.

Finally, it could be argued that language may not be restricted to the left hemisphere. Turk et al. (2002) discovered a patient who suffered damage to the left hemisphere but developed the capacity to speak in the right hemisphere, eventually leading to the ability to speak about the information presented to either side of the brain. This suggests that perhaps lateralisation is not fixed and that the brain can adapt following damage to certain areas.

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