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For centuries, the plight of patients with severe, recurrent seizures has been an issue that has confounded physicians. Before the neurological and physiological processes that resulted in unremitting seizure activity were better understood, dozens of divergent, but ultimately unsuccessful treatments were developed, implemented, but ultimately discarded as ineffective. Ultimately, no successful interventions were developed as a means of easing the life-altering course of serious seizure disorders until the technological advances of the twentieth century allowed researchers to develop more advanced models of the causes of seizure disorders.
With the development of sophisticated tools for neurological imaging, the physiological mechanisms and processes of the brain began to be more fully understood throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Gradually, severe seizure disorders began to be recognized as aberrations that impeded normal neurological functions, allowing researchers to more precisely identify the neurological source of severe seizures.
Advances in the mid-twentieth century led to the development of a radical procedure in which the two hemispheres of the brain were detached from one another as a means of limiting the misfired neurological signals that were a frequent cause of severe seizure disorders. Over the last several decades, this procedure (known formally as corpus callosotomy or a commissurotomy) has been shown to be effective in minimizing the severity and frequency of seizures in many patients with serious forms of epilepsy and other seizure disorders.
In addition to its success in minimizing seizure activity, split-brain surgery has also provided researchers with the following:
- The means of attaining a much more thorough understanding of brain function
- An understanding of the roles played by each of the brain's hemispheres in cognition and perception.
- The patients who have undergone this procedure demonstrate many unusual patterns of cognition and perception that diverge from those seen in individuals with intact brains.
This discussion will present an overview of split-brain surgery and its impact upon patients, both in terms of minimizing severe seizure activity and producing anomalous patterns of perception and cognition. In conclusion, an overarching assessment of the implications of split-brain surgery will be presented.