"Distributed Systems and Conscious Unity"
Split-brain studies have revealed the complex mosaic of mental processes
that participate in human cognition. And yet, even though each cerebral
hemisphere has its own set of capacities, with the left hemisphere
specialized for language and speech and major problem-solving capacities
and the right hemisphere specialized for tasks such as facial recognition
and attentional monitoring, we all have the subjective experience of
feeling totally integrated. Indeed, even though many of these functions
have an automatic quality to them and are carried out by the brain prior to
our conscious awareness of them, our subjective belief and feeling is that
we are in charge of our actions. These phenomena appear related to our left
hemisphere's interpreter, a device that allows us to construct theories
about the relations between perceived events, actions and feelings.
Michael Gazzaniga is the David T. McLaughlin Distinguished University
Professor at Dartmouth, where he is also Director of the Center for
Cognitive Neuroscience. In 1964 he received a Ph.D in Psychobiology from
the California Institute of Technology, where he worked under the guidance
of Roger Sperry, with primary responsibility for initiating human
split-brain research. In his subsequent work he has made important advances
in our understanding of functional lateralization in the brain and how the
cerebral hemispheres communicate with one another.
Dr. Gazzaniga's long and distinguished publication career includes
many books accessible to a lay audience, such as The Social Brain, Mind
Matters, and Nature's Mind. Works such as these, along with his
participation in the public television specials The Brain and The Mind,
have been instrumental in making information about brain function generally
accessible to the public. He recently published The Cognitive Neurosciences
III, from MIT Press, which features the work of nearly 200 scientists in 94
chapters and is recognized as the sourcebook for the field. His book The
Ethical Brain will be published by the Dana Press in June of 2005. Dr.
Gazzaniga is well known for his teaching and mentoring, including beginning
and developing Centers for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of
California-Davis and at Dartmouth; supervising the work and encouraging the
careers of many young scientists; and founding the Neuroscience Institute
and the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, of which he is the
He is much sought-after as a lively and informative speaker, and has
spoken at such distinguished venues as the Royal Institution of Great
Britain, where he presented the historic Friday Night Lecture inaugurated
by Michael Faraday. Dr. Gazzaniga is also prominent as an advisor to
various institutes involved in brain research, and is a member of the
President's Council on Bioethics.