Michael Gazzaniga

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Michael Gazzaniga
Born (1939-12-12) December 12, 1939 (age 84)
Los Angeles, California, USA[1]
Alma materDartmouth College, Caltech
Known forSplit-brain research, cerebral lateralization, cognitive neuroscience
AwardsElected to the National Academy of Sciences, honorary doctorate from Trinity College Dublin
Scientific career
FieldsPsychology, neuroscience
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Santa Barbara, SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind
Doctoral advisorRoger Sperry
Doctoral studentsJoseph E. LeDoux

Michael S. Gazzaniga (born December 12, 1939) is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the USA, where he heads the new SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind.[2] He is one of the leading researchers in cognitive neuroscience, the study of the neural basis of mind.[3] He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academy of Sciences.[3]


In 1961, Gazzaniga graduated from Dartmouth College in the USA. In 1964, he received a Ph.D. in psychobiology from the California Institute of Technology, where he worked under the guidance of Roger Sperry (who had primary responsibilities 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.

Gazzaniga's publication career includes books for a general audience such as The Social Brain, Mind Matters, Nature's Mind, The Ethical Brain and Who's in Charge?. He is also the editor of The Cognitive Neurosciences book series published by the MIT Press, which features the work of nearly 200 scientists and is a sourcebook for the field. His latest monograph is entitled Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain. It was published by HarperCollins in 2011.[4]

Gazzaniga founded the Centers for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of California, Davis and at Dartmouth College, the Neuroscience Institute, and the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, of which he is the Editor-in-Chief Emeritus. Gazzaniga was a member of U.S. President George W. Bush's Council on Bioethics. He was also the Director of the Law and Neuroscience Project, a project to study the intersection of law and neuroscience.

In 2009, he delivered the Gifford Lectures on Mental Life at the University of Edinburgh.[5] In 2019, Trinity College Dublin awarded him with an honorary doctorate.[6]

Cultural influence[edit]

Gazzaniga's work is mentioned in the novel Peace on Earth by Stanisław Lem. It is also mentioned in Chapter 8 of Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari.[7]

In 2010 a tribute volume to the work of Gazzaniga was published, containing contributions by Joseph LeDoux, Stephen Kosslyn, Steven Pinker and others.[8]


Gazzaniga has led pioneering studies in learning and understanding split brained patients and how their brains work.[9] He has performed numerous studies and done large amounts of research on split brain patients to provide a higher quality understanding into the lives of those affected by this rare phenomenon. He has studied how people who have the two halves of the brain separated function in comparison to those who do not. Gazzaniga has looked into what bodily functions are controlled by each half of the brain. He has looked at what split brained patients are able to do as a result of their condition such as the ability to draw two different objects with each hand, an ability that a person with a non-split brain is unable to do. They study how those with split brain act emotionally and physically in comparison to those who do not have a split brain. Through Gazzaniga’s studies a much greater understanding of the split brain phenomenon has been brought to other physiologists as well as the general population of the world.[10][11]

Patient W.J.[edit]

Patient W.J. was a World War II paratrooper who got hit in the head with a rifle butt, after which he started having seizures. Before his operation to try to fix the seizures, Gazzaniga tested his brain functions. This included presenting stimuli to the left and right visual fields and identifying objects in his hands that were out of view. He was able to perform these tasks perfectly and afterwards he had the surgery that split his corpus callosum and anterior commissure. After his surgery, he was brought in again for testing with Gazzaniga in which stimuli such as letters and light bursts were flashed to the left and right visual fields. The stimuli flashed to the right visual field were processed by the brain’s left hemisphere, which contains the language center, so he was able to press a button to indicate he saw the stimulus and could verbally report what he had seen. However, when the stimuli were flashed to the left visual field, and thus the right hemisphere, he would press the button, but could not verbally report having seen anything. When they modified the experiment to have him point to the stimulus that was presented to his left visual field and not have to verbally identify it, he was able to perform this task accurately.[12][13]

Patient W.J.’s divided corpus callosum could also cause conflicts between the hemispheres. An example of this could be seen with his hands, where each hand was controlled by the opposite hemisphere, and there was no communication between the two. This would result in moments where one hand might reach out to open a car door while the other would try to stop that hand from opening the door.[13]

Patient P.S.[edit]

Patient P.S. was a teenage boy in whom it was shown that language comprehension was possible in the right hemisphere. When the word “girlfriend” was flashed to his left visual field, and thus his right hemisphere, he could not verbally say the name of his “crush”, but he then spelled out the name “Liz” with Scrabble tiles. This suggested that even though verbal language was not possible in the right hemisphere, there was a form of language possible through gesturing and left hand movements.[12][13]


  • Gazzaniga, Michael S. (1970). The Bisected Brain. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. ISBN 978-0-390-35278-1.
  • Gazzaniga, Michael S.; LeDoux, Joseph E. (1978). The Integrated Mind. New York: Plenum Pr. ISBN 978-0-306-31085-0.
  • Gazzaniga, Michael S. (1987). Social Brain: Discovering the Networks of the Mind. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-07850-9.
  • Gazzaniga, Michael S. (1988). Mind Matters: How Mind and Brain Interact to Create our Conscious Lives. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-50095-8.
  • Gazzaniga, Michael S. (1992). Nature's Mind: The Biological Roots of Thinking, Emotions, Sexuality, Language and Intelligence. New York: BasicBooks. ISBN 978-0-465-04863-2.
  • Gazzaniga, Michael S. (2000). The Mind's Past. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-22486-5.
  • Gazzaniga, Michael S. (2005). The Ethical Brain. New York [u.a.]: Dana Press. ISBN 978-1-932594-01-0.
  • Senior, Carl; Russell, Tamara; Gazzaniga, Michael S. (2006). Methods in Mind (1st ed.). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-19541-6.
  • Gazzaniga, Michael S.; Ivry, Richard B.; Mangun, George R. (2009). Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of the Mind (3rd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-92795-5.
  • Gazzaniga, Michael S. (2009). Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique (1st ed.). New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0-06-089289-0.
  • Gazzaniga, Michael S. (2011). Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain (1st ed.). New York, NY: Ecco. ISBN 978-0-06-190610-7.
  • Gazzaniga, Michael S. (2015). Tales from Both Sides of the Brain: A Life in Neuroscience (1st ed.). New York, NY: Ecco. ISBN 978-0062228802.
  • Gazzaniga, Michael S. (2018). The Consciousness Instinct: Unraveling the Mystery of How the Brain Makes the Mind (1st ed.). New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0374715502.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS). "In Honor Of ... Michael Gazzaniga".
  2. ^ "Michael Gazzaniga". University of California, Santa Barbara. Retrieved 28 June 2022. Michael Gazzaniga is the Director of the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
  3. ^ a b Wedding, Danny (27 September 2016). "Tony Puente on Michael Gazzaniga". American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association. Retrieved 28 June 2022. Michael Gazzaniga is one of the leading intellectuals in cognitive neuroscience.
  4. ^ Gazzaniga, Michael S. (2011). Who's in charge? free will and the science of the brain. New York, NY: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0062096838.
  5. ^ "Gifford Lectures". ed.ac.uk. University of Edinburgh.
  6. ^ "Honorary Degrees 2019". Trinity News and Events. 2019-12-06. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
  7. ^ Harari, Yuval Noah (2017). Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. London: Vintage. ISBN 9781784703936. OCLC 953597984.
  8. ^ The cognitive neuroscience of mind: A Tribute to Michael S. Gazzaniga, edited by Patricia A. Reuter-Lorenz, Kathleen Baynes, George R. Mangun, and Elizabeth A. Phelps, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2010
  9. ^ American Psychological Association, “Psychology’s best,” 2008, Vol 39, No. 9, http://www.apa.org/monitor/2008/10/honors.aspx
  10. ^ Hock, Roger R., “Forty Studies that Changed Psychology Explorations into the History of Psychological Research,” Ch. 1 “Biology and Human Behavior”, Reading 1: “One Brain or Two?” Copyright 2013, 2009, 2005 by Pearson Education Inc.
  11. ^ "Michael Gazzaniga, on season 7, episode 3". Scientific American Frontiers. Chedd-Angier Production Company. 1996–1997. PBS. Archived from the original on 2006-01-01.
  12. ^ a b Wolman, David (14 March 2012), “The Split Brain: A Tale of Two Halves”, Nature 483: 260–263
  13. ^ a b c (2011), "Interview with Michael Gazzaniga", Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1224: 1–8

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