What I find amazing to this day is how the brain can deal with something which you think should not be compatible with life. ~ American pediatric brain defect specialist Max Muenke
Many people live normal lives missing major portions of their brains. Brain scientists have no explanation for how that is possible.
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A 48-year-old French civil servant living a normal life went to the hospital for weakness in his left leg. Doctors found that 50–75% of his brain was missing; an outcome of hydrocephalus (water on the brain).
The whole brain was reduced – frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital lobes – on both left and right sides. These regions control motion, sensibility, language, vision, audition, and emotional, and cognitive functions. ~ French neurologist Lionel Feuillet
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A 24-year-old Chinese woman sought medical attention for nausea and dizziness. Doctors discovered that she had no cerebellum.
The cerebellum ostensibly coordinates muscle activity and maintains bodily balance. Physical dexterity is a product of cerebellum activity.
The woman was treated to reduce water pressure building up in her brain. She went on living a normal life, though she has always had difficulties with pronunciation.
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Falls and/or loss of balance are relatively common in the elderly. An 84-year-old man had been feeling unsteady over several months and had recurrent falls over several weeks. There was no confusion, visual or speech disturbance, and he was feeling otherwise well. ~ Irish physician Finlay Brown & Indian elderly care physician Djamil Vahidassr
Brain scans revealed that the unsteady 84-year-old had “a large air cavity in the right frontal lobe” of his brain: 9 cm at the longest, and 7 cm deep. The doctors guessed that the condition had progressed for some time, with respiratory exertions – sneezing and coughing – contributing to the growing air pocket.
We were very perplexed by the images we saw! ~ Finlay Brown
The doctors who examined the elderly man could not understand how he could manage so well with so much of his brain missing. As it turned out, the hospitalized patient was diagnosed, declined any treatment, and went back home, knowing to be extra careful.
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Hemispherectomy – removing half the brain – has been done hundreds of times since 1923 to stop chronic seizures.
These disorders are often progressive and damage the rest of the brain if not treated. Hemispherectomy is something that one only does when the alternatives are worse. ~ American neurosurgeon Gary Mathern
The surgery is often successful. 86% of 111 children in one study were seizure free or had nondisabling seizures that did not require medication. Children that underwent hemispherectomies typically had improved academic performance.
The younger a person is when they undergo hemispherectomy, the less disability you have in talking. Where on the right side of the brain speech is transferred to and what it displaces is something nobody has really worked out. ~ American neurologist John Freeman
If brain mass was critical to intelligence, hemispherectomies would not have been successful at all.
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American Michelle Mack had cognitive developmental problems, attributed to a pre-birth stroke. She has trouble controlling her emotions, but otherwise lives a normal life.
Michelle has fairly normal language abilities, certainly basic language abilities, she can construct a sentence, she can understand instructions, she can find words when she’s talking, but she has some trouble in some aspects of visual-spatial processing. ~ American neurobiologist Jordan Grafman
Mack is missing much of her brain.
There are some very deep structures remaining, but the surface of her brain – the cortex – is 95% gone and some of the deeper structures that control movement are missing. These are all structures that are important for movement, behavior, and cognition. ~ Jordan Grafman
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We tend to think of brain damage as a loss of function. But we also have to think about it in terms of gaining functions that were inhibited by certain brain areas before. The human brain is like a very, very big delta: if there is a dam on a major route, then water will flow along the minor routes, and those minor routes will become wider and more functional. ~ Dutch cognitive neurobiologist Beatrice de Gelder, whose apt analogy obscures that there is no physiological explanation for how functional reorganization of the brain is possible