callosum

Playing music requires fine motor skills, which are controlled in both hemispheres of the brain. It also combines the linguistic and mathematical precision (which the left hemisphere is more involved in) with the novel and creative content (that the right hemisphere excels in). For these reasons, playing music has been found to increase the volume and activity in the brain’s corpus callosum - the bridge between the two hemispheres - allowing messages to get across the brain faster and through more diverse routes. 

From the TED-Ed lesson How playing an instrument benefits your brain - Anita Collins

Animation by Sharon Colman Graham

Corpus callosum.

The corpus callosum is a wide, flat bundle of neural fibers beneath the cortex and it connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres, allowing interhemispheric communication. It is the largest white matter structure in the brain.

Clinical conditions related to corpus callosum activity: 

  • Epilepsy: the symptoms of refractory epilepsy can be reduced by cutting the corpus callosum in an operation known as a corpus callosotomy. This is usually reserved for cases in which complex or grand mal seizures are produced by an epileptogenic focus on one side of the brain, causing an interhemispheric electrical storm. The work up for this procedure involves an electroencephalogram, MRI, PET scan, and evaluation by a specialized neurologist, neurosurgeon, psychiatrist, and neuroradiologist before surgery can be considered.
  • Other diseases: Anterior corpus callosum lesions may result in akinetic mutism or tactile anomia. Posterior corpus callosum (splenium) lesions may result in alexia (inability to read) without agraphia. Also: alien hand syndrome; agenesis of the corpus callosum (dysgenesis, hypogenesis, hypoplasia); malformations of the corpus callosum; septo-optic dysplasia (deMorsier syndrome); multiple sclerosis with the symptom Dawson’s fingers; mild encephalopathy with a reversible splenial lesion, a rare encephalopathy (or encephalitis) of unknown origin with a transient lesion in the posterior part of the corpus callosum, mostly associated with infectious diseases.

(Picture by Neurons want food).

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Despite what you’ve been told, you aren’t ‘left-brained’ or ‘right-brained’

The brain is more complex than corporate team-building exercises suggest, but the myth is unlikely to die anytime soon

From self-help and business success books to job applications and smartphone apps, the theory that the different halves of the human brain govern different skills and personality traits is a popular one. No doubt at some point in your life you’ve been schooled on “left-brained” and “right-brained” thinking – that people who use the right side of their brains most are more creative, spontaneous and subjective, while those who tap the left side more are more logical, detail-oriented and analytical.

Too bad it’s not true.

In a new two-year study published in the journal Plos One, University of Utah neuroscientists scanned the brains of more than 1,000 people, ages 7 to 29, while they were lying quietly or reading, measuring their functional lateralization – the specific mental processes taking place on each side of the brain. They broke the brain into 7,000 regions, and while they did uncover patterns for why a brain connection might be strongly left or right-lateralized, they found no evidence that the study participants had a stronger left or right-sided brain network.

Jeff Anderson, the study’s lead author and a professor of neuroradiology at the University of Utah says:

It’s absolutely true that some brain functions occur in one or the other side of the brain, language tends to be on the left, attention more on the right.

But the brain isn’t as clear-cut as the myth makes it out to be. For example, the right hemisphere is involved in processing some aspects of language, such as intonation and emphasis.

How, then, did the left-brained/right-brained theory take root? Experts suggest the myth dates back to the 1800s, when scientists discovered that an injury to one side of the brain caused a loss of specific abilities. The concept gained ground in the 1960s based on Nobel-prize-winning ”split-brain” work by neuropsychologists Robert Sperry, and Michael Gazzaniga. The researchers conducted studies with patients who had undergone surgery to cut the corpus callosum – the band of neural fibers that connect the hemispheres – as a last-resort treatment for epilepsy. They discovered that when the two sides of the brain weren’t able to communicate with each other, they responded differently to stimuli, indicating that the hemispheres have different functions.

Both of these bodies of research tout findings related to function; it was popular psychology enthusiasts who undoubtedly took this work a step further and pegged personality types to brain hemispheres.

According to Anderson:

The neuroscience community has never accepted the idea of ‘left-dominant’ or ‘right-dominant’ personality types. Lesion studies don’t support it, and the truth is that it would be highly inefficient for one half of the brain to consistently be more active than the other.

Yet, despite Anderson’s work and other studies that continue to disprove the idea that personality type is related to one or the other side of the brain being stronger, my guess is that the left-brained/right-brained vernacular isn’t going away anytime soon. Human society is built around categories, classifications and generalizations, and there’s something seductively simple about labeling yourself and others as either a logical left-brainer or a free-spirited right brainer.

Similar to the Myers-Briggs test – another widely used personality test with limited scientific evidence – the left-brained/right-brained thinker theory provides us with an explanation for why we are the way we are, and offers insights into where we fit into the world. It’s also a great conversation starter – and if used as a novelty, or a way to strengthen the “weaker half” of your brain, the myth is pretty harmless.

The problems start, however, when the left-brained/right-brained myth becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When your 12-year-old fills out an online personality test that pegs her as a “right-brainer” and she decides to skip her math homework – because the test told her she isn’t good with numbers – the persistence of this false dichotomy starts to become destructive. The same goes for the unemployed worker who forgoes applying for their dream job because the job description calls for creativity skills they think they may not have.

What research has yet to refute is the fact that the brain is remarkably malleable, even into late adulthood. It has an amazing ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections between brain cells, allowing us to continually learn new things and modify our behavior. Let’s not underestimate our potential by allowing a simplistic myth to obscure the complexity of how our brains really work.

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Einstein’s Corpus Callosum Explains His Genius-Level Intellect

Einstein was undoubtedly one of the most influential physicists of all time, advancing concepts in quantum physics and gaining enormous notoriety for his theory of relativity. Einstein was also a keen philosopher, proclaiming that “… independence by philosophical insight is… the mark of distinction between mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker of truth.

It comes as no surprise that Einstein’s brain appears physiologically distinct from that of the average individual. A recent study has sought to explain the man’s genius-level intellect, in part, based a difference in a structure called the corpus callosum.

Einstein’s Autopsied Brain

Many have attempted to understand what inspired the German-born prodigy. A pathologist, named Dr. Thomas Stoltz Harvey, working at Princeton University, even attempted to establish whether there was a physiological trait that could explain the inner workings of Einstein’s extraordinary mind.

Einstein died from internal bleeding, following a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. In 1955, Harvey, who was responsible for conducting Einstein’s autopsy, removed his subject’s brain, without requesting the permission of his family. Harvey then preserved Einstein’s brain in formalin, before snapping a vast number of photographs. After documenting the details of the specimen, he carved it up into approximately 240 individual sections, with the principal ambition of allowing the scientific community to research what made Einstein so truly remarkable.

Harvey retained his photographs to write a book, which he was never able to finish. Following Harvey’s demise, his family decided to donate the images to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, during 2010.

Decades after Einstein’s departure, it seems scientists are finally able to figure out the mysteries of the great man’s brain.

The Corpus Callosum Study

The latest research study, entitled The Corpus Callosum of Albert Einstein’s Brain: Another Clue to His High Intelligence, was published in the research journal Brain.

The study demonstrated that the association between the left and right hemispheres of Einstein’s brain were atypical, with enhanced connection between these two parts. Evolutionary Anthropologist, Dean Falk, of Florida State University, collaborated on the project. Falk explains how the study offers greater insight into the illustrious physicist’s brain, improving upon prior research studies.

The part of the brain that connects the two hemispheres of the brain is known as the corpus callosum (A.K.A. the colossal commissure), a bundle of neuronal fibers that sits beneath the cerebral cortex, uniting the two hemispheres in the brains of higher order mammals.

The study, which was led by Weiwei Men of East China Normal University, managed to establish a novel technique to explore the “internal connectivity” of Einstein’s corpus callosum, for the very first time.

Using their new method, the team were able to determine the relative thickness of various subdivisions throughout length of the corpus callosum. These differences in thickness were then color-coded to provide the research group with an approximation for the number of neurons stretching between the left and rights hemispheres; a thicker corpus callosum suggests there to be a greater number of neurons.

In addition, different regions of the corpus callosum are implicated in specialist functions. For example, neurons situated at the front of this interlinking region of the brain are involved in movement of hands, whilst neurons running along its posterior are thought to be implicated in mental arithmetic.

The researchers applied their technique to compare Einstein’s corpus callosum to two sample groups, including one group of over a dozen elderly men, and another group of 52 men that were Einstein’s age in 1905. 1905 was a pivotal year in Albert Einstein’s life, publishing seminal articles on Brownian motion, the special theory of relativity, the photoelectric effect, as well as work that yielded the renowned E = mc2 formula.

Following their study, the researchers concluded that Einstein’s brain demonstrated more extensive connections at particular points along the corpus callosum. The team suggest this could, at least partially, explain some of Einstein’s supreme intellectual abilities.

Other Studies

Falk and his colleagues had investigated Einstein’s brain on a previous occasion, in 2012. Simply through analysis of Harvey’s autopsy photographs, the team were able to visibly identify features of Einstein’s brain that could be fundamental to the man’s intellect. They found greater intricacy and convolution patterns across certain regions of his brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex, the visual cortex and the parietal lobes.

The prefrontal cortex is critical to abstract thinking, decision-making and expression of personality traits, whilst the parietal lobe is involved in sense and motor function. Intriguingly, Falk’s group found that the somatosensory cortex, which receives sensory input information, was also increased in magnitude in an area that corresponded to his left hand. As Einstein was an avid violinist, after having been inspired by a number of Mozart’s pieces at age 13, the group drew a correlation between this enlarged cortical region and his musical aptitude.

According to Live Science, Sandra Witelson, a scientist based at McMaster University, who has performed prior studies into Einstein’s brain, explained the physiological difference in the physicist’s neural tissue:

“It’s not just that it’s bigger or smaller, it’s that the actual pattern is different… His anatomy is unique compared to every other photograph or drawing of a human brain that has ever been recorded.”

Marion C. Diamond and colleagues, working at the University of California, published an article in 1985, called on the brain of a scientist: Albert Einstein. Fascinatingly, after performing microscopic cell counts, they found Einstein had an exceedingly high ratio of glial cells (a non-neuronal support cell) to regular neuronal cells, in two parts of his brain.

It seems that Albert Einstein’s thicker corpus callosum may have been partly responsible for his genius-level intellect. However, it is likely that a combination of physiological factors played a part shaping the enigmatic theoretical physicist. The question is, will there ever be another extraordinary mind like Einstein’s?

Well-connected hemispheres of Einstein’s brain may have sparked brilliance

The left and right hemispheres of Albert Einstein’s brain were unusually well connected to each other and may have contributed to his brilliance, according to a new study conducted in part by Florida State University evolutionary anthropologist Dean Falk.

"This study, more than any other to date, really gets at the ‘inside’ of Einstein’s brain," Falk said. "It provides new information that helps make sense of what is known about the surface of Einstein’s brain."

The study, “The Corpus Callosum of Albert Einstein’s Brain: Another Clue to His High Intelligence,” was published in the journal Brain. Lead author Weiwei Men of East China Normal University’s Department of Physics developed a new technique to conduct the study, which is the first to detail Einstein’s corpus callosum, the brain’s largest bundle of fibers that connects the two cerebral hemispheres and facilitates interhemispheric communication.

"This technique should be of interest to other researchers who study the brain’s all-important internal connectivity," Falk said.

Men’s technique measures and color-codes the varying thicknesses of subdivisions of the corpus callosum along its length, where nerves cross from one side of the brain to the other. These thicknesses indicate the number of nerves that cross and therefore how “connected” the two sides of the brain are in particular regions, which facilitate different functions depending on where the fibers cross along the length. For example, movement of the hands is represented toward the front and mental arithmetic along the back.

In particular, this new technique permitted registration and comparison of Einstein’s measurements with those of two samples — one of 15 elderly men and one of 52 men Einstein’s age in 1905. During his so-called “miracle year” at 26 years old, Einstein published four articles that contributed substantially to the foundation of modern physics and changed the world’s views about space, time, mass and energy.

The research team’s findings show that Einstein had more extensive connections between certain parts of his cerebral hemispheres compared to both younger and older control groups.

The research of Einstein’s corpus callosum was initiated by Men, who requested the high-resolution photographs that Falk and other researchers published in 2012 of the inside surfaces of the two halves of Einstein’s brain. In addition to Men, the current research team included Falk, who served as second author; Tao Sun of the Washington University School of Medicine; and, from East China Normal University’s Department of Physics, Weibo Chen, Jianqi Li, Dazhi Yin, Lili Zang and Mingxia Fan.

(Image: National Museum of Health and Medicine)

As a result of my ACC, I have a symptom called “Mirroring” where the muscles on one side of my body want to do what their opposite is doing. It’s most noticeable in my hands, but applies to just about everywhere. It’s completely involuntary on my part, though I’ve worked for most of my life to hide it.

When I was younger, kids used to tease me about it, because I couldn’t control it or hide it like I can now. Really, the reason I’ve become so adept at hiding my Mirroring is because of those kids, impressing in me some kind of subconscious desire to not be noticed.

It’s only been the last few years where I’ve stopped trying to hide it, save for the times when it’s potentially inconvenient or inappropriate. I’m trying very hard to unlearn what years of bullying forced me to learn, and just allow me to be myself, weird flail-y arms and funny fingers and all.

I am a disabled person. I’m not hiding that any more. I didn’t choose to be disabled, but goddamnit, I’m going to love myself for who and what I am.

When 30-year-old firefighter Josephine Porter dies in the line of duty, her sister Jeanette arranges to have Joey’s brain uploaded to a computer system called BrightBox. At first, Jeanette is thrilled to have her sister’s mind stored in a small device that she can bring with her wherever she goes; life seems to become one unending slumber party. 


But being trapped in a BrightBox doesn’t suit Joey well—she experiences painful phantom limbs, strange auditory and visual hallucinations, and finds herself remembering things that never actually happened. Plus there’s all the strange information that keeps downloading into Joey’s hard drive…information that Joey doesn’t want to know, and that BrightBox’s parent company finds dangerous. Soon Jeanette must enlist the help of BrightBox’s sales representative and the product’s senile inventor, in order to track down the source of the strange downloads and restore her sister’s sanity. 

Corpus Callosum is a work of literary science fiction that explores how people cope with death and anguish, how individuals form and express selfhood under extreme states of flux, and what we lose when all data is saved.

Just a reminder that my debut novel Corpus Callosum is always FREE for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBook, and all other ereader formats

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The corpus callosum is a thick band of nerve fibers that divides the cerebrum into left and right hemispheres. It connects the left and right sides of the brain allowing for communication between both hemispheres. The corpus callosum transfers motor, sensory, and cognitive information between the brain hemispheres.

Function:

The corpus callosum is involved in several functions of the body including:
  • Communication Between Brain Hemispheres
  • Eye Movement
  • Maintaining the Balance of Arousal and Attention
  • Tactile Localization

Corpus Callosum

Unlike a great deal of you who have probably been waiting with bated breath for this book, I had no idea what I was delving into when I opened it. And I must say I was very impressed with what I found.

It is novels like this that remind me that women invented science fiction. That we were the first to birth these worlds of the probably improbable and put them into words.

Corpus Callosum is a story of life and death and the space that lies between. It follows a young woman named Jeanette and her sister, Joey, recently deceased. But kept to live on forever in a box that holds all her memory and personality in code. An imperfect chassis.

The thing that strikes me so deeply about this work is that it manages to exist where not very many writers of this genre place their stories. Usually in fiction that deals with the future, the created world and its technology have been nearly perfected. Any glitches or anomalies are rare and no one expects them. Corpus Callosum, on the other hand, is The Future: Version 1.0. The test run. Where technology hasn’t yet caught up to the majesty of the human mind and perfection is just a goal on a sheet of paper. 

Each moment spent with the sisters pulls you between the pedestrian goings on of every day life— like visiting family and reminiscing with friends and having a shag with an attractive man— and the horrifying repercussions of the second type of life that this future world offers. 

I enjoyed every second boxed up in the mind of Joey, and felt her resentment, fear and anger just as harshly as my own.

If you’re familiar with the discussions regarding AI, chassis, robotics, and the like, or looking for a compelling read I’d definitely give it a look.

Corpus Callosum is available free to tumblr users as a downloadable file: Here

But I’d also hop on over to Amazon to support Erika D. Price and leave a review. 

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Alternative pathways let right and left communicate in early split brains

Humans who lack the corpus callosum, a bundle of 200 million fibers that connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain, have long fascinated physicians, neuroscientists and other curious minds. Now, a group of researchers puts an end to the Sperry’s paradox, which describes major differences between individuals born with reduced or absent brain connections and those who acquire this condition later in life.

During the last century, many patients have undergone a variety of brain surgeries in an attempt to alleviate all sorts of psychiatric maladies, from hysteria and depression (mainly in women) to schizophrenia and epilepsy. Early on, doctors believed that psychiatric patients suffered from aberrant wiring among different brain areas and that cutting the connections between these areas would help patients regain normal brain circuits as well as their mental health. For instance, since the 1940s, several patients with intractable epilepsy have been treated with callosotomy, a surgical procedure that severs part or most of the corpus callosum. Curiously, some individuals are already born without the corpus callosum, a condition known as callosal dysgenesis (CD).

In 1968, the neurobiologist Roger Sperry confirmed that both callosotomized and CD patients have either absent or massively diminished connections between brain hemispheres. However, these two types of patients show a paradoxical difference concerning the transfer of information between the two sides of their brains. While typical callosotomized patients suffer from a disconnection syndrome in which there is minor or no communication between the left and right brain hemispheres, in CD patients, the two hemispheres are in fact able to communicate with each other.

For instance, when an unseen object is held in the right hand and thus recognized by the left hemisphere, both callosotomized and CD individuals can easily name that object verbally, because it is the left hemisphere that most often dominates verbal language. However, when an object is held in the left hand and thus recognized by the right hemisphere, callosotomized patients fail to verbally name the object because the missing corpus callosum prevents the right hemisphere from communicating with theleft hemisphere. Conversely, CD patients have no difficulties in naming an unseen object regardless of the hand holding it.

The observation that the corpus callosum is the main connector between brain hemispheres earned Roger Sperry the Nobel Prize in 1981, but his own paradoxical discovery that CD patients do not present the classical disconnection syndrome observed in callosotomized patients remained unexplained until now.

In an article entitled “Structural and functional brain rewiring clarifies preserved inter-hemisphere transfer in humans born without the corpus callosum” and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a group of scientists from Rio de Janeiro and Oxford puts an end to Sperry’s paradox.

Previous work had led to the hypothesis that a defect in callosal formation would cause the brains of CD patients to create alternative pathways early on in life, but little was known about these potential pathways. The group led by Fernanda Tovar-Moll and Roberto Lent at the D’Or Institute for Research and Education and the Institute of Biomedical Sciences in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, tested the brains of patients with CD using state of the art functional neuroimaging methods. The researchers were able to identify, morphologically describe and establish the function of two alternative pathways that help compensate for the lack of the corpus callosum. These pathways enable the transfer of complex tactile information between hemispheres, an ability missing in surgically callosotomized patients. Furthermore, by comparing six CD patients with 12 normal individuals, the group was able to demonstrate that CD patients present tactile recognition abilities similar to those observed in controls, indicating a functional role for these newly discovered brain pathways.

The authors believe that the development of alternative pathways results from the brain’s ability for long-distance plasticity and occurs in the utero during embryo development, which indicates that connections formed in the human brain early in development can be greatly modified, and most likely by environmental or genetic factors.

These findings will change the way we perceive the mechanisms of brain plasticity and may pave the way for a better understanding of a number of human disorders resulting from abnormal neuronal connections during embryonic development.

Brain White Matter Changes Seen in Children Who Experience Neglect

Experiencing neglect in childhood was associated with alterations in brain white matter in a study of abandoned children in Romania who experienced social, emotional, linguistic and cognitive impoverishment while living in institutions compared with children who were placed in high-quality foster care or those who had never been in institutional care, according to the results of a clinical trial published online by JAMA Pediatrics.

Brain development depends heavily on experience. Children raised in institutions often show compromises in brain development and associated behavioral functioning, according to the study background.

Johanna Bick, Ph.D., of Boston Children’s Hospital, and coauthors investigated the white matter integrity of three groups of children who participated in the Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP) from 2000 through the present. At about 2 years of age, 136 children who had spent more than half their lives in institutional care were recruited for the study. Slips of paper were drawn out of a hat to randomly assign the children to remain in institutional care or to be moved to foster care. At the onset of the study, foster care was almost nonexistent in Bucharest, Romania, and institutional care was the standard for abandoned children, according to study background. The BEIP core group (involving principal investigators and original staff members of the study) performed the randomization procedures.

The previously abandoned children’s developmental trajectories were compared with children raised in biological families and follow-up assessments were done at 30 months, 42 months, 54 months, 8 years and 12 years of age. Data from 69 participants (ages 8 to 11 years) were selected for statistical analysis of white matter abnormalities (23 children who went from an institution to foster care; 26 children in institutional care; and 20 children who had never been in institutional care).

Study results show significant associations between neglect in early life and the microstructural integrity of the body of the corpus callosum, tracts involved in limbic circuitry, sensory processing and other areas. Follow-up analyses suggest that early intervention into foster care promoted more normal white matter development in previously neglected children.

“Results from this study contribute to growing evidence that severe neglect in early life affects the structural integrity of white matter throughout the brain and that early intervention may support long-term remediation in specific fiber tracts involved in limbic and frontostriatal circuitry and the sensory processes. Our findings have important implications for public health related to early prevention and intervention for children reared in conditions of severe neglect or adverse contexts more generally” the study concludes.