Roger Wolcott Sperry


Roger Wolcott Sperry

Infobox Scientist
name = Roger Wolcott Sperry


birth_date = August 20, 1913
birth_place = Hartford, Connecticut
death_date = April 17, 1994
death_place =
residence =
citizenship =
nationality =
ethnicity =
field = neuropsychologist
work_institutions =
alma_mater = Oberlin College, University of Chicago
doctoral_advisor = Paul A. Weiss
doctoral_students =
known_for = split-brain research
influences =
influenced =
prizes = 1981 Nobel Prize in Medicine
religion =
footnotes =

Roger Wolcott Sperry (August 20, 1913April 17, 1994) was a neuropsychologist, neurobiologist and Nobel laureate who, together with David Hunter Hubel and Torsten Nils Wiesel, won the 1981 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work with split-brain research.

Sperry was born in Hartford, Connecticut, to Francis Bushnell and Florence Kraemer Sperry. His father was in banking, and his mother trained in business school. Roger had one brother, Russell Loomis. Their father died when Roger was 11. Afterwards, his mother became assistant to the principal in the local high school.

Sperry went to Hall High School in West Hartford, Connecticut, where he was a star athlete in several sports, and did well enough academically to win a scholarship to Oberlin College. At Oberlin, he was captain of the basketball team, and he also took part in varsity baseball, football, and track; he received his bachelor's degree in English in 1935 and a master's degree in psychology in 1937. He received his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1941, supervised by Paul A. Weiss. Sperry then did post-doctoral research with Karl Lashley at Harvard University.

In 1942, he began work at the Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology, then a part of Harvard University. He left in 1946 to become an assistant professor, and later associate professor, at the University of Chicago. In 1952, he became the Section Chief of Neurological Diseases and Blindness at the National Institutes of Health. In 1954, he accepted a position as a professor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) where he performed his most famous experiments with his then student Michael Gazzaniga.

Before Sperry's experiments, some research evidence seemed to indicate that areas of the brain were largely undifferentiated and interchangeable. In his early experiments, Sperry showed that the opposite was true: after early development, circuits of the brain are largely hardwired.

In his Nobel-winning work, Sperry tested ten patients who had undergone an operation developed in 1940 by William Van Wagenen, a neurosurgeon in Rochester, NY [Gazzangiga, M. F. (2008). "Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique". HarperCollins Publishers.] . The surgery, designed to treat epileptics with intractable "grand mal" seizures, involves severing the corpus callosum, the area of the brain used to transfer signals between the right and left hemispheres. Sperry and his colleagues these patients with tasks that were known to be dependent on specific hemispheres of the brain and demonstrated that the two halves of the brain may each contain consciousness. In his words, each hemisphere is

This research contributed greatly to understanding the lateralization of brain function. In 1989, Sperry also received the National Medal of Science.

In 1949, Sperry married Norma Gay Deupree. They had one son, Glenn Michael, and one daughter, Janet Hope. At the time he received the Nobel Prize, he was suffering from advanced stage Kuru disease which he had acquired as a young neuroscientist through contact with human brains he was using for his research.

Bibliography

* "The problem of central nervous reorganization after nerve regeneration and muscle transposition." "Quart. Rev. Biol". 20: 311-369 (1945)
* "Regulative factors in the orderly growth of neural circuits." "Growth Symp". 10: 63-67 (1951)
* "Cerebral organization and behavior." "Science" 133: 1749-1757 (1961)
* "Chemoaffinity in the orderly growth of nerve fiber patterns and connections." "Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA" 50: 703-710 (1963)
* "Interhemispheric relationships: the neocortical commissures; syndromes of hemisphere disconnection." (with M.S. Gazzaniga, and J.E. Bogen) In: P. J. Vinken and G.W. Bruyn (Eds.), "Handbook Clin. Neurol" (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Co.) 4: 273-290 (1969)
* "Lateral specialization in the surgically separated hemispheres." In: F. Schmitt and F. Worden (Eds.), "Third Neurosciences Study Program" (Cambridge: MIT Press) 3: 5-19 (1974)
* "Mind-brain interaction: mentalism, yes; dualism, no." "Neuroscience" 5: 195-206. Reprinted in: A.D. Smith, R. Llanas and P.G. Kostyuk (Eds.), "Commentaries in the Neurosciences" (Oxford: Pergamon Press) pp. 651-662 (1980)
* "Science and moral priority: merging mind, brain and human values." "Convergence", Vol. 4 (Ser. ed. Ruth Anshen) New York: Columbia University Press (1982)

References

*cite journal
quotes = no
last=Bogen
first=J E
authorlink=
year=1999
month=Sep
title=Roger Wolcott Sperry (20 August 1913-17 April 1994)
journal=Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society
volume=143
issue=3
pages=491–500
publisher =
location =
issn =
pmid = 11624452
bibcode =
oclc =
id =
url =
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*cite journal
quotes = no
last=Hamilton
first=C R
authorlink=
year=1998
month=Oct
title=Paths in the brain, actions of the mind: Special issue in honor of Roger W. Sperry
journal=Neuropsychologia
volume=36
issue=10
pages=953–4
publisher =
location =
issn =
pmid = 9845044
bibcode =
oclc =
id =
url =
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*cite journal
quotes = no
last=Voneida
first=T J
authorlink=
year=1997
month=
title=Roger Wolcott Sperry, 20 August 1913-17 April 1994
journal=Biographical memoirs of fellows of the Royal Society. Royal Society (Great Britain)
volume=43
issue=
pages=461–70
publisher =
location =
issn =
pmid = 11619982
bibcode =
oclc =
id =
url =
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*cite journal
quotes = no
last=Miller
first=J G
authorlink=
year=1994
month=Oct
title=Roger Wolcott Sperry. Born August 20, 1913--died April 17, 1994
journal=Behavioral science
volume=39
issue=4
pages=265–7
publisher =
location =
issn =
pmid = 7980367
bibcode =
oclc =
id =
url =
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format =
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*cite journal
quotes = no
last=Trevarthen
first=C
authorlink=
year=1994
month=Oct
title=Roger W. Sperry (1913-1994)
journal=Trends Neurosci.
volume=17
issue=10
pages=402–4
publisher =
location =
pmid = 7530876
bibcode =
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id =
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doi=10.1016/0166-2236(94)90012-4

*cite journal
quotes = no
last=Hubel
first=D
authorlink=
year=1994
month=May
title=Roger W. Sperry (1913-1994)
journal=Nature
volume=369
issue=6477
pages=186
publisher =
location =
pmid = 8183336
doi = 10.1038/369186a0
bibcode =
oclc =
id =
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*cite journal
quotes = no
last=Girstenbrey
first=W
authorlink=
year=1981
month=Dec
title= [The different faces of the hemispheres. The presentation of the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology 1981 to the neurobiologists Sperry, Hubel and Wiesel]
journal=Fortschr. Med.
volume=99
issue=47-48
pages=1978–82
publisher =
location =
issn =
pmid = 7035316
bibcode =
oclc =
id =
url =
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*cite journal
quotes = no
last=Ottoson
first=D
authorlink=
year=1981
month=Oct
title= [Sperry has given us a new dimension on views of the higher functions of the brain]
journal=Lakartidningen
volume=78
issue=43
pages=3765–73
publisher =
location =
issn =
pmid = 7033697
bibcode =
oclc =
id =
url =
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External links

* [http://www.nap.edu/html/biomems/rsperry.html Obituary at The National Academies Press]
* [http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/articles/sperry/index.html Nobelprize.org biography]
* [http://www.nobel.se/medicine/laureates/1981/sperry-autobio.html Roger W. Sperry - Autobiography]
* [http://rogersperry.org/index.html The Roger W. Sperry Site] <-- Currently hacked.
* [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/bhsper.html PBS page for him]
** [http://rogersperry.org/timeline.html A Timeline of the Published Works of Roger W. Sperry]
* [http://humankindadvancing.humanists.net/05/05-01.html Tributes to Sperry in "Humankind Advancing", Vol.5, No.1 (21 January 1994)]


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