Reply To: Hemispherectomy in Adults

  • Whit Blauvelt

    March 1, 2024 at 5:03 pm

    Hi Luke,

    A pertinent question: What should the prediction be based on the McGilchrist hypothesis? From my current perspective, of having read his books slowly and carefully, but having finished The Matter some months ago (and gone on to some similarly dense reading equally related to the core of my own interests that drew me to Iain’s speculations — variations in how we can use language in thought), I’m uncertain the degree to which he intends his claims regarding neuroscience and those regarding psychological enculturation to dovetail literally, as compared to just metaphorically.

    There is certainly a way of reading him as making simply the claim that the spread of ideas, memes, framings and the like within a culture or civilization can hinder the optimal use of brains/minds. In other words, if we get our philosophy right, our mental well-being and productivity can improve. And to the extent we get our philosophy wrong, the results in mental function can resemble certain varieties of brain damage, in particular those associated with schizophrenic presentations.

    If we are to take his hypothesis as being more in this metaphoric realm — as compared to some literal claim about widespread organic brain damage — then the ability of surgeons to remove major parts of already-malfunctioning brains without specifically producing schizophrenic symptoms might be somewhat beside the point.

    In the paper you point to, this sentence stands out to me, “Brain injury that lead to hemispheric epilepsy occurred before 10 years of age in 41 (87%) patients.” In other words, the organic trouble had begun while most of the patients were quite young, when brain development is still quite plastic in its distribution of functions between the hemispheres. What Iain’s concerned with is the way that specific functions integrate, where those functions on average are distributed some to the left, some to the right hemisphere. It’s likely enough that in the cases covered in this paper, those functions were already consolidated to one side — the one which survived the surgery. As this is possible, even likely, should the results speak to McGilchrist’s hypothesis at all?