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The nature of the self, identity, and human values used to be the preserve of philosophers, but over recent decades psychologists and neuroscientists seem to have thoroughly colonised the territory.

For instance, in the 1960s Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga famously severed the corpus callosum in several people with epilepsy and found that the left hemisphere of the brain could be aware of things the right was not aware of, and vice versa. Then in the 1970s, Benjamin Libet discovered that certain bodily movements were activated in the brain before the person consciously decided to do them, challenging conventional notions of free will.

A decade on, and Michael Persinger brought religious experiences into the domain of neuroscience by inducing them in subjects using transcranial magnetic stimulation. Moving into the 21st century, and neuroscientists such as Todd E. Feinberg and Antonio Damasio continue to use research into the brain to shed light on how our sense of self is created and sustained.

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Category: Science