The Life and Contributions of Roger Sperry: Exploring the Discovery of Left and Right Hemisphere

If you have ever heard of right and left brain hemispheres, then you have Roger Sperry to thank for it. This Nobel Prize-winning neuropsychologist is one of the most significant figures in the field of psychology. Sperry made significant breakthroughs in the research and understanding of the brain’s functionality that led to a better comprehension of human behavior and cognitive abilities.

In this blog post, we will delve into who Roger Sperry was, his life and achievements, his contribution to psychology, and his famous Split-Brain Experiment.

Who was Roger Sperry?

Roger Sperry was born on August 20, 1913, in Hartford, Connecticut. He was an American neuropsychologist, neurobiologist, and Nobel laureate who was known for his groundbreaking work in split-brain research. Sperry graduated from Oberlin College with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1935 before enrolling at the University of Chicago for his graduate studies.

He obtained his doctorate degree from the University of Chicago in 1941. Sperry then served at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) from 1953 to 1984, where he conducted his most renowned research and experiments, earning him numerous accolades and distinctions.

What is Roger Sperry best known for?

Sperry is famous for his work on the split-brain hemisphere, the concept of lateralization of brain function, and neuropsychology. Through his studies, he demonstrated that the two hemispheres of the brain process information differently and can be separated surgically, which led to his Nobel Prize recognition.

Sperry’s researches showed that each hemisphere of the brain has specialized functions. The left hemisphere is responsible for logical, analytical, and verbal tasks, while the right hemisphere is more visual, orientation, and spatial tasks. He also contributed to our understanding of the brain’s plasticity, how it adapts and changes to different stimuli, and the limitations of brain function when injured.

Where did Roger Sperry work?

After Sperry completed his studies, he became an instructor at Harvard Medical School before joining the faculty of the University of Chicago. In 1953, he took up a position at the California Institute of Technology, where he worked until his retirement in 1984.

During his time at Caltech, Sperry worked closely with Michael Gazzaniga, who would later carry on his research into split-brain patients. Their work together would go on to make major contributions to our understanding of the mind and the brain.

Michael Gazzaniga Contribution to Psychology

Michael Gazzaniga, a student of Sperry, carried on his research into split-brain patients and made significant contributions to the understanding of the mind and brain. Gazzaniga’s research on the left brain interpreter, which is responsible for making sense of events in our lives, expanded and built on Sperry’s work.

He showed that the left hemisphere tries to make sense of information, even if it’s false, incorrect, or doesn’t make any sense. This research has influenced our understanding of cognitive dissonances and how humans make judgments and decisions.

What did Roger Sperry discover?

Roger Sperry’s most significant discovery was that the two hemispheres of the brain, the left and right hemispheres, have distinct cognitive functions. This discovery was made through testing on split-brain patients, individuals whose corpus callosum (the bridge connecting the two hemispheres) had been severed.

Through this research, Sperry showed that one hemisphere dominates in specific cognitive activities, such as logic, language, and reasoning. The left hemisphere dominated in performing these tasks, while the right hemisphere was specialized in spatial orientation and non-verbal cues.

What was Roger Sperry’s hypothesis?

Sperry’s hypothesis was that each hemisphere of the brain had specialized functions and that the corpus callosum’s severing would result in the left and right cortical hemispheres’ isolation. According to Sperry, this isolation would produce distinct cognitive processing in each hemisphere.

His hypothesis was empirically supported through spilt-brain experiments carried out on patients. The results demonstrated that each hemisphere was capable of independent action, demonstrating that the left hemisphere processed cognitive information in a logical and sequential manner, while the right hemisphere processed information in a more intuitive and creative way.

When did Roger Sperry discover left and right hemisphere?

Roger Sperry’s discovery of the left and right hemispheres of the brain was made in the early 1960s. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1981, along with David Hunter Hubel and Torsten Nils Wiesel, for their discoveries concerning how the brain processes information.

What did Roger Sperry experiment?

Roger Sperry’s most famous experiment was known as the Split-Brain experiment, conducted on patients undergoing surgery for severe epilepsy. This surgical procedure required severing the corpus callosum, a bundle of nerves that connects the two hemispheres of the brain.

After the physically separate hemispheres of the brain were isolated, Sperry found that they could no longer communicate with one another. The split-brain patients experienced a disconnection in their behavior and cognitive functions. Things that they would have once been able to do effortlessly became challenging, even to communicating some simple requests.

When did Roger Sperry die?

Roger Sperry died on April 17, 1994, in Pasadena, California, at the age of 80.


Roger Sperry was one of the greatest psychologists of the 20th century. His research on split-brain patients and the function of each hemisphere of the brain has made a profound impact on our understanding of human cognition and behavior.

Sperry’s contribution to neuropsychology and brain research has led to significant breakthroughs in the field and has paved the way for further studies on brain plasticity. His legacy continues to inspire new research, with many scientists building upon his discoveries and contributions.

As proved in the numerous awards he received, including the Nobel Prize, Sperry was a trailblazer who left an indelible mark on the field of neuroscience. His work and dedication to furthering humanity’s knowledge and understanding of the brain will continue to be celebrated and remembered.