A new study is aiming to explain the reason behind the shocking survival of a man who discovered he had half a brain.
In 2007, the 44-year-old man in France visited the hospital complaining of minor pain in his leg. A subsequent exam revealed that leg pain was the least of the man’s problems — he’d been living without a portion of his 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,” the study’s co-author, Lionel Feuillet, said.
“It is hard for me [to say] exactly the percentage of reduction of the brain, since we did not use software to measure its volume. But visually, it is more than a 50% to 75% reduction.”
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For years, doctors were baffled and attempted to figure out how he was able to live so long with half his brain. The recently released study ultimately suggested that, despite previous assumptions, brain size and brain function are mostly unrelated.
Intelligence tests done on the man showed his IQ to be a 75, below average but not considered mentally disabled or retarded. Further investigation found, Feuillet said, it was found that “the brain is very plastic and can adapt to some brain damage occurring in the pre- and postnatal period when treated appropriately.”
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“What I find amazing to this day is how the brain can deal with something which you think should not be compatible with life,” Max Muenke, pediatric brain defect specialist with the National Human Genome Research Institute, commented upon reading the study.
“If something happens very slowly over quite some time, maybe over decades, the different parts of the brain take up functions that would normally be done by the part that is pushed to the side.”