Roger Sperry Was Looking For a Cure For Which Disease


Roger Sperry conducted research on cats, monkeys, and people in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s to examine the functional differences between the two hemispheres of the brain.

He did this by investigating the corpus callosum, a sizable network of nerve cells that transmits signals between the left and right sides of the brain.

Roger Sperry Was Looking For a Cure For Which Disease

As part of his research into how each hemisphere of the brain works, Sperry cut the corpus callosum in cats and monkeys. A split-brain, as he termed it, was created when communication between the two halves of the brain was severed.

Animals with divided brains may store twice as much information in memory. In later years, Sperry tried his theory out on human subjects by cutting their corpus callosums as a therapy for epilepsy.

He discovered that the left and right sides of people’s brains had distinct purposes. Only the left hemisphere could do language interpretation. By 1981, Sperry’s work on the’ split brain’ had earned him a share of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

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Roger Sperry Career

In 1941, Sperry was awarded a postdoctoral scholarship at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he worked with Karl Spencer Lashley. It was during this time that he conducted the series of experiments that ultimately led to the formulation of the chemoaffinity theory.

In order to continue their research in a region unaffected by World War II, Sperry and his mentor Lashley relocated to Orange Park, Florida just a year later. Anurans, which include frogs, were the focus of Sperry’s research at the time.

By changing the angle of the frogs’ eyes and cutting their optic nerves, he was able to conduct a series of experiments on their ability to see.

Sperry proposed the chemoaffinity hypothesis to explain how axons attach to their target cells; he thought that each type of cell had its own chemical flag that allowed the axon to recognise it.

Since the connections between the axon and the target cell are cell specific, Sperry demonstrated, the axon’s function and area of attachment could not shift after it was established during embryonic development.

Even though Sperry didn’t know for sure what it was that let an axon locate its target cell, he speculated that it was some kind of basic chemical signal.

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Last Words

On December 8th, 1981, Roger W. Sperry delivered the Nobel Lecture at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. Professor David Ottoson, a member of the Nobel Committee in Physiology or Medicine, presented him with the award. Since Dr. Sperry was unable to make it due to health reasons, Professor David Ottoson read the lecture on his behalf.