There are hundreds and thousands of cases when we are not able to explain why the brain acts in this or that way and why we feel strange things. As medical journals show, some of them have been repeating throughout certain periods of time causing confusion as well as demanding an explanation. The following stories had interested one neurologist.
Dr. Ramachandran diagnosed Derek Steen with what he called “Phantom limb syndrome”. The thing is that the patient could feel his amputated arm. The therapist’s task was to clear up the situation and figure out what caused Derek to have strange feelings and sensation in the limb that no longer existed.
So, the doctor started his experiment by tipping body parts with a cotton stick. This would allow him to find out how the body reacts and what are the rates of feelings. The moment the therapist was touching Derek’s cheek, the patient could sense cotton stick moving across his right phantom limb. To Dr. Ramachandran’s opinion, the right side of the brain has the mapping of the left part of the body that is transferred with the help of cortex usually called the primary somatosensory cortex. What Dr. Ramachandran had found was that the sensory pathways in the brain were reorganized after the patient had his hand dismembered. The crux of the matter lies behind the fact that after the hand had been amputated, the signals that control face senses started the occupation of the brain areas that were responsible for hand senses. As a result, the patient had the same feelings in the phantom limb as on the cheek.
Graham struggled unusual condition, unable to see anything around him. Blindsight, as they called it, was his diagnosis. His peculiarity lied behind the ability to sense the world. However, he could feel and sense things mowing only in the field of vision on the left, while the field of view on the right seemed to be shut off. The doctor realized trues definition of the vision, which is not only about seeing things but also feeling and detecting them, even if you have no idea of the object or subject. Having conducted research, Dr. Ramachandran came up with a new understanding of our vision. He concluded that our eyes have two pathways: one pathway leads to the visual cortex responsible for the recognition of things, and another one serves as a connection between the eyes and the brain dealing with the sense of things. So, each pathway has a different function when it comes to visual activity.
If the visual cortex is unaffected and the pathway functioned in a proper way, Graham would not be suffering blindsight. Visual cortex with the wrecked pathway caused Graham to only sense and feel things moving, without exact detection of the object.
Peggy Palmer was the patient who suffered slightly different condition. Her diagnosis was not Blind Sight, but, what they called, visual neglect. The stroke in the parietal lobe of the brain caused such a condition Dr. Ramachandran gave his explanation saying that due to parietal lobes, our brain produces a 3D image of the world making it possible to have a good direction sense. What concerned Peggy, she saw only one side, either left or right. To put it simply, she could see only half of the reality. So they conducted one experiment in order to prove this theory.
They asked the patient to represent the flower, the one she remembered, on the paper. During the procedure, the doctor noticed that Peggy was depicting the plant, but the right half of it only. That was how the patient saw things. The expression of surprise overwhelmed her when they said that it was only half of the flower. The patient did not even suspect that all her life she was not able to see things as they were and actually had a vision problem. So, another conclusion can be made: besides the difficulty with the visual perception, the patient had some awareness issues. Dr. Ramachandran divided the brain into around thirty areas, each of them is responsible for different aspects such as perception of color, depth, movement, shape etc. Visual input is divided into two links concerned with the processing. One of them is known as “How pathway” responsible for guidance and directions, another one is called “What pathway” that has to do with the identification of objects.
This case is an example of what happens when the “What pathway” is damaged. David’s diagnosis was Capgras syndrome. For him, it was hard to recognize people whom he knew. Moreover, he did not even recognize his parents and home. From time to time, he did forget that who he was and behaved himself like a totally different person. The neurologist believed that temporal lobes had to do with it. In case the temporal lobe is damaged and hardly send any signal to the amygdala when the person is seeing or looking at things, then they are unable to show the emotional reaction. As a result, they start denying things and expressing their disagreement with what they see.
Our understanding of the world is intertwined with the emotional response to the world meaning that anyone who suffers this condition to overcome it.
TLE, or in other words Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, had affected John Sharon causing him painful seizures. The patient experienced emotions, which created a feeling of special linking to the world surrounding him. It often happened that John could come up with his philosophy and view of life. After seizures, John often spoke of small and unimportant objects as of the most significant things in his life.
As Dr. Ramachandran said, seizures induced by temporal lobe may cause people to think and feel strange and powerful emotions. That energy that lives within the person after a seizure is often treated as the sense of the presence of God. Dr. Ramachandran is sure that temporal lobe is the one that influences the pathways which make people consider objects that really do not matter as the most important and special ones.