A boy who lost a significant part of his brain three years ago has amazingly recovered, and is now a mostly normal 10-year-old kid.
The intriguing case highlights the resilience of the human brain, which in the case of the boy, rewired itself to compensate for its missing chunk.
Boy Loses Part Of Brain To Tumor Surgery
A case study published in the Cell Reports journal discussed a three-year investigation of a child, identified only as U.D., after he had a big part of his brain removed before he turned 7 years old.
The boy was healthy from birth until about 4 years old, when he suddenly suffered a seizure. A slow-growing tumor was discovered in his brain, resulting in intractable epilepsy. His doctors and parents eventually decided to have U.D. undergo surgery to remove the tumor, but it also meant removing the right side of the boy's occipital lobe and part of his temporal lobe. Altogether, the surgery removed one-third of the right hemisphere, or one-sixth of the whole brain.
The occipital lobe processes visual information from a person's eyes, and links the images to memories. Its left side focuses on written words, while the affected right side of U.D.'s brain focuses on recognizing faces. The temporal lobe, meanwhile, processes auditory information and integrates memories with sounds.
Doctors were unsure how the boy's brain will handle the removal of these parts, with the possibility of U.D. suffering from severe disabilities in processing visual and sensory information.
Boy Recovers From Incomplete Brain
The brain tumor surgery was a success, as it also eliminated the tumor. Three years later, U.D. has also amazingly recovered, with his brain forming new neural connections to compensate for the parts that were removed.
U.D. is now a mostly ordinary 10-year-old kid, with the only major effect of the surgery being the fact that he is unable to see past the left side of his face. He is now able to recognize objects and faces as easily as normal people, and he has shown no other signs of cognitive or general health problems.
"He is awesome. He's as smart as anyone. He's thoughtful, curious. His family has been incredibly cooperative with our project," said Carnegie Mellon University cognitive neuroscientist Marlene Behrmann.
The Resilience Of The Human Brain
The human brain is a very resilient organ, which has resulted in stories such as a boy who reached his first birthday even with large parts of his brain missing, and a boy who lived for 12 years after being born without a brain.
As with U.D.'s case, losing part of a person's brain should not mean that hope is lost as well.