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Science & Technology

Can you survive with half your brain removed?

By T.K. Randall
November 20, 2019 · Comment icon 11 comments

Is it really possible to live a normal life with half a brain ? Image Credit: CC 2.0 Andrew Mason
A new study has revealed the remarkable ability of the human brain to adapt even when half of it is missing.
The brain is an important organ, so much so that the very idea of having any of it removed at all would seem positively barbaric - surely we need the whole thing in order to function in our daily lives ?

According to a new study however, this may not actually be the case.

The research sought to assess the brain health of six people who had undergone a hemispherectomy as a child - a procedure that involves either severing or removing half the brain.

Such an action is usually taken to reduce the chance of seizures in bad cases of pediatric epilepsy.

"The people with hemispherectomies that we studied were remarkably high-functioning," said study author Dorit Kliemann. "They have intact language skills. When I put them in the [brain] scanner, we made small talk, just like the hundreds of other individuals I have scanned."
"You can almost forget their condition when you meet them for the first time."

Now in their 20s and 30s, the patients underwent MRI scans while fully conscious.

Incredibly, the scans revealed normal neural activity and function within the brain.

"What surprises me is the degree of compensation that was noted," said Dr. Joseph Sirven.

"And if we could figure out the way that the brain compensates in this dramatic setting, and harness this compensatory mechanism for patients affected by stroke, traumatic brain injury or other conditions, that would be a very big deal."

Source: | Comments (11)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by Dumbledore the Awesome 5 years ago
Well, surely the people who put themselves up for political office are living proof.
Comment icon #3 Posted by sci-nerd 5 years ago
This gives rise to a very interesting question: Is consciousness neuron based? And if not, then what the bell is it?
Comment icon #4 Posted by XenoFish 5 years ago
Oh no, you did it now. You know what that answer will be. 
Comment icon #5 Posted by sci-nerd 5 years ago
I do. And you know my non-spiritual theory. But it really is a scientific question, because it is among the unsolved problems in science.
Comment icon #6 Posted by spartan max2 5 years ago
If the brain adapts with half a brain, and we notice no difference in the person. Then maybe we really do only use a bit of our brain lol
Comment icon #7 Posted by Phaeton80 5 years ago
Seems to me millions of us do already. Heck, some of those even become president.
Comment icon #8 Posted by psyche101 5 years ago
Of course it's neuron based. The functions and pathways were rerouted not magically working with nothing.  That's why they are studying it. To understand it. When we work out how exactly the brain compensates we can possibly apply that to patients affected by stroke, traumatic brain injury or other conditions. It would be a medical breakthrough. 
Comment icon #9 Posted by sci-nerd 5 years ago
I tend to agree with you, I'm just not as sure. You remember what Feynman said When I talk to scientists about this - what consciousness is, and what gives rise to it, they always end up saying "We don't know for sure."
Comment icon #10 Posted by psyche101 5 years ago
There's more than enough evidence. We have even filmed a memory being chemically stored in a mouse brain.  Again, that's why we are studying it, so we can apply it selectively in medical instances. Have you asked any why the attention schema theory isn't the best theory to date then? It seems pretty logical and robust to me 
Comment icon #11 Posted by Jenifer92085 5 years ago
It best works on children or infants. Someone who's neromapping hasn't been developed yet, a full developed adult has so many memories I would believe that if and adult woke up it would be to overwhelming and they would go in to cardiac arrest. Could you even imagine having only half of your memory except this memory has 2 percent at the beginning, another memory the middle 40 percent, another the end of a memory but only 1 percent and so forth, because everyone is so different no neurosurgeon could possibly know this person needs this, this one this and that just to be you so your okay to m... [More]

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