Sperry was accepted to Oberlin College under a full academic scholarship, earning his board by waiting tables. He maintained an active interest in sports and was elected captain of the varsity basketball team, while receiving varsity letters as well in baseball and track. As an undergraduate he attended R. H. Stetson's course, "Introduction to Psychology." It was during a lecture by Stetson in this course that Sperry got the idea for a paper he published some twenty years later entitled "On the Neural Basis of the Conditioned Response" (1955). This short paper carries powerful theoretical implications for those interested in central nervous pathways in conditioned learning. Sperry remained at Oberlin College, in Stetson's laboratory, through 1937, when he received his M.A. in psychology.
Sperry took his Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Chicago in 1941, under the tutelage of the renowned neuroscientist Paul Weiss. During that period, in addition to developing highly skilled neurosurgical techniques, he made the first of what was to become a number of successful challenges to existing concepts related to neuronal specificity and brain circuitry. In a series of carefully controlled and clearly written publications between 1941 and 1946, Sperry conclusively demonstrated that the rat's motor system was "hard wired" and unmodifiable (following transplants) by training. This work clearly established that the basic circuitry of the mammalian central nervous system is largely hard wired for specific functions and seriously challenged Weiss's "resonance principle" and "impulse specificity theory."
These studies were to have an impact on human neurosurgery as well. From 1942 to 1945, during his military service with the Office of Scientific Research and Development, Nerve Injury Project, Sperry's work, along with that of Weiss and others, resulted in a major change in the sur-