Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Preservation of Mind and Memories After Removal of Half a Brain

The idea of a crucial experiment or critical experiment is an old concept in the world of science. Such an experiment is supposedly one that leaves one particular hypothesis standing, and rules out all rival explanations or rival hypotheses. The idea that there are such experiments has been criticized by some. A simpler idea is the idea of a sink-or-swim experiment. A sink-or-swim experiment is one that either leaves some hypothesis standing as a viable hypothesis (the “swim” situation) or causes the hypothesis to be discredited (the “sink” hypothesis).

Scientists have very often claimed that the human mind is produced by the brain, and that memories are stored in the brain. A very interesting question is: could you do a sink-or-swim experiment testing such hypotheses? The experiment has actually been done, not just once but many times. I will here use the term “experiment” for medical procedures that were usually done for medical reasons such as stopping very bad brain seizures in patients. Although the doctors who did such procedures may not have considered them experiments, we can consider them as experiments in the sense of testing a particular hypothesis about the brain.

The sink-or-swim experiment for the hypothesis that the brain makes the mind and the hypothesis that the brain stores memories is to surgically remove half of the brain, and see what the effect is on the mind and memory. Such an experiment has been done many times. Almost every time the result has been that there was no major effect on consciousness, no major effect or intelligence, and no major effect on memory. The memories of people who had half of their brains removed usually preserved the knowledge and life memories they had acquired.

This is a “sink” result for this sink-or-swim experiment. The results of such surgical operations decisively refute claims that the mind is the product of the brain and claims that the brain is the storage place of memories. But addicted to materialist dogma that the mind is merely the product of the brain and that memories are stored in brains, virtually no neuroscientists have paid attention to the results of these sink-or-swim experiments. In this regard, they are like fundamentalists who keep believing that the Earth is 6000 years old despite observational results indicating our planet is billions of years old.

I have in five previous posts (here, here, here, here and here) listed very much data relating to such experiments. In this post I will not restate that data showing that intelligence is well-preserved after removing half of the brain, but will mostly cite some data and cases I have not previously discussed.

I can start with the results reported in the American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 46, No. 3 (Jul., 1934), pages 500-503, regarding work of W. E. Dandy, in which he removed half of the brains of patients. You can read the results in the preview here (without doing any registration). We read the following (I have put a few of the sentences in boldface):

Dandy has completely removed the right cerebral hemisphere from eight patients. He has performed total extirpations of one or more lobes much oftener... There are tabulated below certain generalizations on the effects of removing the right hemisphere.... The operation was the complete extirpation of the right frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes peripheral to the corpus striatum. The weight of the tissue re moved varies, with the pathological conditions involved, from 250 to 584 grm [grams].Coherent conversation began within twenty-four hours after operation, and in one case on the afternoon of the same day. Later examinations showed no observable mental changes. The patients were perfectly oriented in respect of time, place, and person; their memory was unimpaired for immediate and remote events; conversation was always coherent; ability to read, write, compute, and learn new material was unaltered. Current events were followed with normal interest. There were no personality changes apparent; the patients were emotionally stable, without fears, delusions, hallucinations, expansive ideas or obsessions, and with a good sense of humor; they joked frequently. They showed a natural interest in their condition and future. They cooperated intelligently at all times throughout post-operative care and subsequent testing of function.”

It would be rather hard to imagine a more decisive refutation of the claim that the human brain is the source of the human mind, and the claim that the human brain is the storage place of human memories. Here are eight people who had half of their brains removed. Yet the people showed “no observable mental changes,” and “their memory was unimpaired for immediate and remote events.” The people could read, write, compute and learn just as if nothing had happened, and “there were no personality changes.”

A 1966 paper was entitled “Long-term changes in intellect and behavior after hemispherectomy.” The paper refers to operations in which half of a brain is removed, often to stop very bad brain seizures. This paper gives very detailed “before and after” IQ score data on 11 people who had half of their brains removed. Eight of the 11 people had the left half of their brain removed, and the other three had the right half of their brain removed. Every single one of the 11 people was able to get an improved IQ score on at least one of the tests taken after half of their brain was removed, a score better than a corresponding score they had got before half of their brain was removed.

Patient 1 (a P.G.) had an IQ of 128 before half of his brain was removed. After half of his brain was removed, he scored 142 on an IQ test. The paper tells us that this man with half a brain “obtained a university diploma after operation” and “has a responsible administrative position with a local authority.”

The same paper refers to previous results when removing half of a brain, and notes data suggesting that such an operation has little negative effect on intelligence. Referring to intelligence, we are told that McKissock reported “short term improvement in 13 of 17 cases,” that another researcher found “significant improvement in verbal intelligence scores in a variety of tests after operation in five of 35 cases, with temporary deterioration in two, the remainder unchanged.” We are also told that White “reports improvement in personality in 80% of 134 cases” in which half of the brain was removed.

In the scientific paper here, we have on page 248 and page 250 before and after test scores for various subjects who had of their brains removed in hemispherectomy operations.  The IQ score differences are slight. IQ tests don't involve learned information, but almost any IQ test would be largely a test of memory, as it would be a largely a test of ability to read test questions.  

On the same pages we have before and after test scores for Peabody Picture Vocabulary Tests given to various subjects who had  half of their brains removed in hemispherectomy operations.   In these tests, someone is shown picture cards like the one below, and asked to name the words represented by the pictures.  These tests are tests of memory retention after removal of half of the brain.  On these memory tests there was no decline in the score of 21 subjects mentioned on page 248, and no decline in 7 subjects mentioned on page 250. 



In an article in the New Yorker magazine, we are told of a Christina Santhouse who had half of her brain surgically removed: “When I met her, she had taken her S.A.T.s and just finished high school, coming in seventy-sixth in a class of two hundred and twenty-five.” If your brain makes your mind, how could you finish in the top 34% of your class with only half a brain? The same article tells us of someone who had half of the brain removed, but made the dean's list in college, a list of the top-performing students on campus.

An article in the LA Times tells us about memory preservation in a young girl who lost half her brain:

How is it that 8-year-old Beth Usher of Storrs, Conn., can lose her left hemisphere, yet retain her large repertoire of knock-knock jokes? Beth’s memories survived not just the loss of brain tissue, but also the 32 days that she spent in a coma, the result of some brain stem swelling that occurred in response to the trauma of surgery. Shortly after Beth regained consciousness, her father began quizzing her about people and places from her past. Brian Usher didn’t get very far. 'Dad,' Beth interrupted, with a trace of impatience. 'I remember everything.' ”

On page 59 of the book The Biological Mind, the author states the following:

"A group of surgeons at Johns Hopkins Medical School performed fifty-eight hemispherectomy operations on children over a thirty-year period. 'We were awed,' they wrote later of their experiences, 'by the apparent retention of memory after removal of half of the brain, either half, and by the retention of the child's personality and sense of humor.' " 

There is a reason why we can be confident that removal of half of a brain in hemispherectomy operations does not cause any major loss of learned memories.  If there was a case of any such thing happening, you can believe that it would be endlessly recited by those who wish for us to believe that memories are stored in brains.  But there is no such case, so we never hear materialists telling us about some person who suffered some dramatic loss of learned knowledge after having a hemispherectomy operation in which half of his brain was removed. 

Our professors very often make biology claims that are contrary to the low-level facts of biology. The table below lists various cases in which the fantasy biology of academia dogma diverges from biology reality. 

FANTASY BIOLOGY VERSUS BIOLOGICAL REALITY
Dubious Biology Claim Biological Reality
Brains store memories, probably in synapses or dendritic spines. Neither synapses nor dendritic spines last for even a tenth of the longest time that humans can remember things, and both are made up of proteins with lifetimes of only a few weeks.
DNA stores a blueprint or recipe for making the human body. DNA does not specify the physical structure of any of these things: an organism's body, its organ systems, its organs or its cells. 
Visible biological innovations arise from a combination of random mutations and natural selection, which improves the DNA of a species. It has not been proven that any visible complex biological innovation ever appeared because of random mutations and natural selection, and we know of a reason why mere DNA mutations could never produce a complex visible biological innovation: that visible physical structures are not specified in DNA.
Life appeared because of a lucky combination of random chemicals billions of years ago. Neither a living thing nor any of the building blocks of a living thing (proteins and nucleic acids with genetic information) has ever been produced through any experimental process that  realistically simulated early Earth conditions.
The building blocks of life have been found in outer space. No one has found in outer space either of the two actual building blocks of life: proteins or nucleic acids with genetic information.
Brain scans show your brain makes your mind. Brains scans actually show signal differences of less than 1% during thinking or recall, what we would expect from random variations.
Brain signals are real fast. Synaptic delays, synaptic fatigue and relatively slow dendritic transmission mean that signals in the cortex must be real slow.
The common descent of all life from a single ancestor is a fact. A shortage of transitional fossils and the lack of DNA corresponding to old fossils (because of DNA's half-life of 521 years) make the doctrine of common descent very unproven.
Chemically humans are almost exactly like chimps. 80% of proteins are different between humans and chimps.
Our minds can be explained neurally. There is no credible neural explanation for any of the main features of the human mind: memory, self-hood, consciousness, abstract thinking, and imagination.
We kind of understand how a speck-sized egg can progress to become a full-sized baby. We have no understanding of how this occurs (given a lack of a body plan in DNA), and do not even understand what causes cells to reproduce.
Memory and intelligence depend strongly on brain status. A person can lose half of his brain in a hemispherectomy operation, with little effect on memory or intelligence.

The image below reproduces the table above. 


biology myths

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Gender Differences in Brains Help Discredit Prevailing Dogmas About Brains

Many people are interested in differences between the brains of males and the brains of females, and differences between males and females in IQ tests and memory tests. A careful examination of this area provides some evidence against the claim that the brain is the source of human intelligence, and the claim that memories are stored in synapses of the brain.

The brains of males are significantly larger on average than females -- about 10% bigger. But we know that females tend to be shorter and weigh less than males. Some say that the relative size of female brains (female brain sizes compared to female body sizes) is no smaller than the relative size of male brains.  But in a scientific paper a scientist states, "After correcting for body height or body surface area, men's brains are about 100 g heavier than female brains in both racial groups."  That difference of 100 grams is about 7% of the total weight of a male brain (about 1350 grams). 

So using the idea that the human mind is produced by the brain, we should expect that males do about 7% better at school and about 7% better in IQ tests.  But this is not at all the case. Males and females do about the same on IQ tests, with a difference of less than 1% or 2%.  In the United States females tend to get just as high academic grades as males.  In this regard, the claim that the brain is produced by the mind fails the observational test. 

Now let's consider human memory. The standard academic dogma (unsupported by any facts) is that memories are stored in the synapses of brains. The persistence of this dogma is mystifying, given what we know about the instability of synapses. Humans can reliably remember things for longer than 50 years, but individual synapses do not last for years. The proteins that make up synapses are very short-lived, having an average lifetime of only a few weeks. 

Wikipedia.org states, "Multiple studies[22] [23] have found a higher synaptic density in males: a 2008 study reported that men had a significantly higher average synaptic density of 12.9 × 108 per cubic millimeter, whereas in women it was 8.6 × 108 per cubic millimeter, a 33% difference." The 2008 study mentioned is the study "
Gender differences in human cortical synaptic density" you can read here

Now, this 33% difference is quite a big difference, much bigger than the brain size difference previously mentioned. Under the assumption that synapses are the storage place of memory, we should expect (given this 33% greater synapse density in males) that either males tend to have stored much more memories than females, or that males are better at remembering things than females. But  such things are not true. 

There is no evidence that males store more memories than females. One good way of testing whether males store more memories than females is simply to look at academic scores. If males tended to store more memories, they would tend to have higher academic scores than females. But females do just as well as males in tests of learned information. 

Below is a quote from an article in the New York Times indicating that boys do not do better than females (on average) in school tests:

"The study included test scores from the 2008 to 2014 school years for 10,000 of the roughly 12,000 school districts in the United States. In no district do boys, on average, do as well or better than girls in English and language arts. In the average district, girls perform about three-quarters of a grade level ahead of boys. But in math, there is nearly no gender gap, on average. Girls perform slightly better than boys in about a quarter of districts...Boys do slightly better in the rest."

Here are some quotes from the scientific paper "The Role of Sex in Memory Function: Considerations and Recommendations in the Context of Exercise": 

"Females tend to outperform males in episodic memory function....Females tend to perform better than males in verbal-based episodic memory tasks, as opposed to spatial-based memory tasks []. Females generally access their memories faster than males [], date them more precisely [], and use more emotional terms when describing memories []. Superior verbal memory for females also appears to be independent of intelligence level []. Additionally, females also have greater specificity for events imagined to occur in the future []. In general, females outperform males on autobiographical memory (particularly with high retrieval support via verbal probing []), random word recall [], story recall [], auditory episodic memory [], semantic memory (driven by superiority in fluency) [], and face recognition tasks [,]."


So the paper is telling us that female memory performance is better than male memory performance in all these areas. But how can that be, if males have a synaptic density 33% greater? We have here additional evidence that there is no truth in the common claim that memories are stored in human synapses.