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OF TWO MINDS
scientific papers with some full text articles


Research on Dual-Brain psychology:


    As described more fully in the answer to the question, what is dual-brain psychology, dual brain psychology began with my observation that my patients in psychotherapy seemed to have somewhat distinct parts to their personalities, on more mature and one less so.  I then became reacquainted with the famous split-brain studies and realized, as only a few neuroscientist had, that these studies demonstrated that these patients essentially had two separated minds one associated with each hemisphere.  This gave rise to my idea that perhaps the two personalities I felt I was seeing in my patients had to do with the left and right brains.  I began my first study in this are in 1990, when I proposed that my colleagues and I use a sophisticated technique to look at brain activity in subjects while they were performing a task.  The technique is called the probe evoked potential and is described and referenced in the paper which I published with Martin Teicher and Andrew Papanicolaou.  The task I wanted to look at was having the subjects remember and upsetting or traumatic memory as they might do in a therapy session and to compare that with what we observed when the same subjects were remembering something unemotional such as something they did the week before.  I interviewed each subject as I would had they been in the office with me for therapy.  Ten subjects had a history of significant psychological trauma as children and ten did not.  We found that the trauma group seemed to have more brain activity in their right brains when they remembered their trauma and relatively more activity in their left brains when they remembered the neutral memories.  We used averages for the group, so there were exceptions within the group.  The group who had not been traumatized as children, did not show as marked shifts between the neutral and the emotional memories.  This study led me to feel that traumatic memories from childhood are preferentially stored in the right brain and I wrote a review article suggesting a connection between the right brain and the unconscious mind .
        I then decided to try to study split-brain patients.  Most studies on split-brain patients, with a few exceptions, did not deal with psychology, but focused on the language and special abilities of the two hemispheres.  I wanted to test whether the two hemispheres of split brain patients were different from a psychological perspective.  I had been in contact with Joseph Bogen, who is the neurosurgeon who pioneered the split-brain operation and who was greatly involved in the famous split-brain studies, and he thought the experiment I proposed might be interesting and he put me in touch with his colleague, Eran Zaidel, who agreed.  I flew out to Los Angeles and in one weekend we completed an entire study which was recently published.  Click here to see the published paper .
    The most fascinating finding which we reported in the paper was that one patient told me he had been bullied as a child.  I asked him (his left brain) whether the bullying still upset him, and he replied that of course it didn't, it happened 30 years earlier.  When we tested him we were able to ask questions separately to both hemispheres and have each hemisphere answer with the left (right brain) and right hands.  Interestingly, his left hand indicated (speaking for his left brain) that, as his left brain told me verbally, he was not upset about the bullying.  But, his left hand responses, speaking for his right brain, indicated that he was extremely upset by the bullying even after 30 years!
    So this experiment was consistent with what I thought I was seeing in my patients: two separate minds, perhaps, one associated with each hemisphere.  Still, this was just a very tentative hypothesis based largely on my interactions with my patients.  Then one day I was reading some scientific literature and came across an interesting article.  In that paper by a German group of scientists led by Werner Wittling, they reported that they could show movies to the left or right brains of ordinary people.  Essentially, they were showing the movie to one side of the patient and the movie would apparently have more of an affect on the opposite hemisphere.  They found that depending on which side of the person they showed the movie, the person's blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol level, and emotional response would vary.  The effects were not very strong but they were statistically significant.
    I decided to try a simple experiment.  I held my hands up and covered my eyes so that I could see only out of the left side of my left eye, and asked myself how I felt.  I felt fine and no different than I ordinarily did.  I then tried looking out the other side, and again, not surprisingly, I felt no different.  I wondered what Wittling had actually found.  Perhaps his findings were so small that they weren't clinically relevant.
    Another person might have left that experiment there and gone on to reading another article.  But, I had to go to the office to see patients.  There I decided, expecting nothing much, to ask my first patient to block his vision as I had.  He almost immediately said, "Oh, my God!"  "What's that?" I immediately replied, and he said, "I've got all of my anxiety back."  I asked him to try looking out the other side and he said, "Oh, that feels great."
    That day five patients of 8 had similar intense responses.  And as long as the person looked out that view, he would seem to have a different perspective on the world than he had looking out the other side.  Out one side he manifest a more mature personality and out the other a more immature personality.  This was exactly what I had expected from my psychological hypothesis.  In my book I present many transcripts of sessions using this technique (later with taped safety goggles and then later with specially designed sunglasses).  If you want to try this your self, try my envelope test.
    I then began using these lateralized glasses as an adjunct to therapy with patients in my practice.  You can see a brief excerpt from my book, in which there is a description of my using the glasses with a patient .  My book, Of Two Minds , offers many such examples.  Essentially, I see therapy as the teaching of the immature side that it is safer and more valuable than it had thought, and I have found that using these special glasses as an adjunct to therapy can be of great value in those patient who are responsive to them.  A typical responsive patient might say, looking out one side, "I'm stupid and lazy."  With that view he will feel anxiety and depression.  Simply having him put on the opposite pair of glasses, waiting 15 seconds and asking again how he feels about himself now gets an entirely different response.  "Hell, I'm the most ambitious person I know."  His anxiety and depression are gone!  To experience this is a profound experience, and is of course contrary to all of our expectations.  Even after having witnessed this phenomena hundreds of times, I still feel amazed each time I see it.
    Of course, I wanted to examine my findings closely to make sure what I was finding was reproducible and that it was not simply due to placebo effects or suggestion.  The first study I did was with new patients who came to see me.  In 70 consecutive patients, I asked them to put on taped safety goggles which allowed mainly out of the side of one eye.  There was a left and right sided pair. I asked each patient to report their level of anxiety an a scale of: none, mild, moderate, quite a bit, or extreme.  I found 40% felt no difference between sides, 35% felt a mild difference, and 23% felt at least a moderate difference.  In the last 40 of these patients I also had them look out of two pairs of placebo goggles and I compared the differences between the two experimental goggles and between the two control goggles.  I found that there was a much higher difference between the experimental goggles than the controls and that that difference was very highly significant by statistical tests.  If you would like, you can read the published paper .  One of things which I found was that not all of the patient's problems were located in the right brains.  About half felt their distress while looking to the right visual field which was thought to activate relatively the left brain.  This observation made me review the work in the field which held the view that most negative emotions were to be found in the right brain.  What I then realized is that all of that research was based on average data and were generalized to all people.  For example, in a study of gender and height, an experimenter would find that men are taller than women.  But, to say that all men are taller than all woman is false.  I believe that there may be an on average tendency, depending on which people you are studying, for the right brain to be more negative emotionally, but I now believe that there are so many exceptions to this as to make it almost meaningless.
    We then went to our laboratory at McLean and studied 15 male and female college students with EEG or brain wave studies as well as emotional responses.  What we found was that the left sided goggles strongly shifted the EEG's indicating a relative activation of the right hemisphere and that the right sided goggles did the opposite.  The results were highly significant statistically.  We also used the control goggles which were not expected to create an EEG shift, and they did not.  The college students had changes in anxiety with the experimental goggles but not with the control goggles.  If you would like, you can read the published paper .
    So far we have published two placebo control studies (and have a third which we haven't yet submitted for publication) and all show statistically very significant differences between the emotional responses to the experimental goggles versus the control goggles.  A paper is submission which reports an experiment from a Boston Harvard teaching hospital in which 37 severely depressed patients were given the goggles and 95% had at least a small difference between how depressed they felt on one side versus the other; 65% had a marked difference.  Several other studies are in progress.
    On other piece of evidence has been my experience in my practice with using the goggles or the sunglasses as an adjunct to the patient's psychotherapy.  I have continued to observe remarkable personality changes in about 30% of my patients and these changes are persistent from one week to another, and occur as soon as the patient puts on the glasses.  I have found that patients who respond to the glasses seem to have the best outcomes.  Over time their troubled side is no longer troubled.
    On last piece of evidence is the work of many other scientists who's work is published in the medical literature.  I have reviewed this work in my papers, especially the paper describing my first use of the goggles in my therapy patients .  A more complete review of this literature is in my book,  Of Two Minds , which puts forth the complete arguments in support of my ideas.  A review article offers a summary of my hypotheses  Review Article .  
    Research on the hypothesis continues.  For the past year I have been using a technique for measuring brain blood flow called Near Infra-Red Spectroscopy as an index of brain activation in the left and right frontal cortices with the experimental goggles and placebo controls.  Recently, we have begun studies using functional MRIs and the goggles to try to acess brain activity in response to the goggles.  These studies are in progress.  A recent publication reports a study using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, an experimental treatment for depression, and the goggles as a baseline.  This study found that the goggles used as a baseline test could predict which severely depressed patients would respond to electromagnetic activation of their left frontal corticies. TMS paper
 


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