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Eran Zaidel, Marco Iacoboni. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2003, pp 576, £61.95. ISBN 0-262-24044-0
Roger Sperry’s research on the cognitive abilities of split-brain patients following callosal section is a landmark in the study of brain–behaviour relationships. His studies firmly established the role of the corpus callosum in inter-hemispheric information transfer. What have we learned more recently about the role of the corpus callosum in cognition? In this book Eran Zaidel (originally one of Sperry’s students) and neurologist Marco Iacoboni present 22 chapters based on a 1996 NATO Advanced Science Institute that attempt to answer this question. The central focus is on the classic problem of why reaction time to respond to a light flashed in either visual field differs according to whether the ipsilateral or contralateral hand is used to respond (known as the Poffenberger effect, after the psychologist who described it in 1912). This is thought to reflect callosal information transfer between the hemispheres; the book uses anatomical, physiological, and behavioural perspectives to address the question of what information is transferred and how the transfer might take place. Many chapters are accompanied by commentaries and editorial comment, giving a flavour of the debates and controversies in the field. Perhaps reflecting the long interval between the original conference and this book, more recent studies that use functional neuroimaging techniques to investigate callosal function are relatively poorly represented. However, there is still much of interest in this otherwise comprehensive volume. The chapters generally have a basic scientific focus, but chapters on multiple sclerosis, dyslexia and alexia, schizophrenia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder also contain much that will interest the practicing clinician.
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