Essay on What Cruel Acts of Fate Teach Us about Brain Function

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What Cruel Acts of Fate Teach Us about Brain Function

Much of the research and discoveries regarding how our brain functions can be attributed to cruel acts of fate- the brain injuries and disorders which damage key areas of the brain. It is through studying how these injuries and disorders affect human behavior, that we gain insight into how different brain structures contribute to human functional capability. The literature of neuropsychology is filled with countless case histories that document how specific brain lesions have affected a particular patient¹s abilities. As early as 1868, the case of Phineas Gage provided us with an example of brain damage and how it can lead to discoveries about brain function. Phineas Gage, a
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Perhaps even more bizarre are recent case histories describing individuals who are able to perceive the world around them without any conscious knowledge of that perception. Studies of disorders such as blindsight, inverse Anton¹s Syndrome, prosapagnosia, and blind touch, provide us with an opportunity to understand the complex process of perception. Blindsight is a pattern of behavior that is displayed by individuals who are blind due to a damaged striate cortex. In cases of blindsight, the patient claims not to see something within their field of view, but shows in their behavior that they are stimulated by this object that they claim not to be seeing (Natsoulas, 1997). Individuals with blindsight, despite their blindness, were able to look towards a stimulus in their field of view, and point to it, but not identify it. In one study, a patient with complete cortical blindness was presented with a large moving striped display. The patient was able to follow this moving stimulus with his eyes, but claimed that he could not see it. Research into cases of blindsight have shown that the striate cortex plays an essential role in the conscious experience of visual perception (Cowey & Stoerig, 1991). Inverse Anton¹s syndrome describes a condition in which patients who are esentially cortically blind, but do have small areas of visual capability in the middle of their visual field, deny the ability

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