Light moves at a speed of 186,000 miles per second.  Speed as a concept is also integral to biology.  I hypothesize that the speed with which information passes between the two cerebral hemispheres impacts consciousness, behavior and personality.  And, whereas the basic unit of speed in physics is the kilometer or mile, in biology that unit is a generation.  Though maybe not.

Bernard Crespi has written a paper, Psychosis and Autism as Diametrical Disorders of the Social Brain, which focuses on several neurological features as influential in the etiology of particular diseases and conditions.  Corpus callosum size (the corpus callosum is the primary brain bridge between the two cerebral hemispheres) and anomalous dominance (differing cerebral hemisphere sizes) are two of those features, aspects of cerebral lateralization.  I would consider that corpus callosum size not only influences the ease and speed of information transfer, but that corpus callosum size influences the experience of self awareness or split consciousness.

There are correlations between degrees of cerebral lateralization, how much the two cerebral hemispheres vary, and conditions characterized by maturational delay (autism, Asperger’s, stuttering).  Degrees of handedness are influenced by this variable.  Other diseases and conditions are associated with right cerebral hemispheres not pruned by early childhood testosterone surges, leaving a larger overall brain with two hemispheres the same size.  Ally these features with changes in corpus callosum sizes (and corpus callosums can vary in size in several ways depending on which of several zones are varying), and I would suggest you have a template for estimating degrees of self awareness (split consciousness), behavior, specific diseases, various conditions and personality structure.

My point in this piece is that in the context of two cerebral hemispheres with varying sizes, corpus callosum sizes are influential in the speed of information transfer, and information transfer between the cerebral hemispheres is integral to our experience of self awareness.  The more inhibited information transfer, the more self aware we become.  I mean self aware in the context of split consciousness or a person struggling with himself or herself.  There is a spectrum featuring at one side a non-self-aware, primary-process person with an experience characterized by not being able to be two places at once, two times at once, nor being able to imagine something’s opposite.  This is animal consciousness, the kind of consciousness we experience while dreaming.  This is the consciousness of small children.  This is the consciousness of the autistic.

At the other side of the spectrum are those humans with an experience characterized by a split.  These individuals are two people.  The unconscious feels like a different person.  The world often seems very black and white.  Imagination is often exercised as different times and places, and things’ opposites are juggled and compared, and conclusions are drawn.

The split, modern consciousness is encouraged by a small corpus callosum size with an inhibition of hemispheric communication, along with a right cerebral hemisphere reduced in size.  Light moves at 186,000 miles per second.  The speed of information transfer between cerebral hemispheres varies depending on the structure of the bridge.  The smaller the bridge, the more inclined that individual is to experience himself or herself as split, self aware, surrounded by a community of ideas.  That is my hypothesis.

Whereas the speed with which information passes between the hemispheres influences the emergence of a separate self, there is a second level of information transfer that deeply influences physiology, personality and behavior.  This is the passing of information between generations.  That this seems slow may be a result of our focusing on an individual as the primary unit in evolution.  Assuming that evolution unfolds as part of a process characterized by environmental influences on those that are genetically predisposed to modify ontogeny in response to those environmental influences, then we might consider that examining evolution from any specific level of experience, including the individual, makes little sense.

In just the way that information passes back and forth between the cerebral hemispheres, informing the whole person, a person whose experience may be characterized by a split, information passes back and forth between individuals within the larger community, influencing individual ontogeny, compelling different physical features and behaviors.

In other words, though it looks like the unit of change in evolution is a generation, that generation adjustment may come as a result of an almost infinite number of pieces of information transferring throughout the larger community, a community not unlike a massive brain with countless hemispheres.

The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second.  The speed of nature information transfer might be measurable, but we don’t know even a fraction of all those variables that influence ontogeny.  One question to consider is this:  If in a human a split brain can lead to the emergence of self awareness, even if that awareness is characterized by no small amount of anguish, confusion and isolation, then might this multiple-brain, massive-information transfer characterized by nature suggest self awareness?  And, consider that humans are part of that production.


This entry was posted on Monday, November 9th, 2009 at 8:53 am and is filed under Autism, Biology, Causes of Autism, lefthanded, Ontogeny, Unconscious. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
7 Comments so far

  1. Jon Gluckman on November 10, 2009 4:41 pm

    This reminded me of Julian Jayne’s “Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind,” a theory not held in high repute, I believe. But it begged (by raising) the question of when “consciousness” arose and why–and possibly how often. I hazily recall him placing it in the era of Homeric horrors (based purely on unscientific (inevitably) textual evidence). If consciousness confers evolutionary advantage, then “we” must have changed a lot since then–but what about all the humans living elsewhere in the world? No, it seems more likely, does it not, that the early humans hotfooting it out of Africa already had “I” in their vocabulary. Is conscious merely potential in us, activated by culture/socialization? What was with the French “wild child” in that regard?

  2. Andrew on November 10, 2009 4:53 pm

    If I remember Jayne’s right, it was partly a study of externalization of internal dialog and eventual recognition that the other voice in your mind might be your own. I’m not sure. Nevertheless, that’s not exactly what I’m talking about, though Jayne was pretty damn interesting.

  3. Sanfter Tourismus on August 17, 2011 7:18 am

    Nachhaltiger Tourismus…

    Cerebral Lateralization, corpus callosum, autism, language and handedness | Neoteny, sexual selection, cause of autism, human evolution, social transformation, left organizing and internet activism – how they all connect…

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