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Boy Loses A Huge Chunk Of His Brain, But The Rest Of His Brain Don’t Even Notice

Aug 01, 2018 09:43 PM EDT
In an impressive three-year study, a boy's brain bounces back after losing a third of the right hemisphere.
(Photo : Gerd Altmann | Pixabay)

The brain is one of the most complex organs in the human body, the very core of the nervous system.

It is also remarkably resilient, as a recent case proved.

The paper published in the journal Cell Reports documented the case of a boy referred to as U.D. who had to have a third of his right hemisphere surgically taken out. Amazingly, the absence of this part of his brain had few adverse effects on him over the years.

Doctors Remove Huge Section Of Child's Brain

According to Live Science, U.D. had been experiencing increasingly severe seizures since he was 4 years old. Various medications and treatments failed to get him better.

When the boy was 6 years and 9 months old, he underwent a lobectomy, a surgical procedure where doctors removed one-third of his brain's right hemisphere. The section that was extracted included the right side of his occipital lobe, which is responsible for visual processing, and most of his right temporal lobe, which is responsible for audio processing.

U.D., now 10 years old, is now seizure-free.

Effects Of The Brain Surgery

The surgery worked in keeping the seizures away, but at what price? After all, it stands to reason that missing a considerable chunk of the brain has a number of adverse effects.

As a result of the brain surgery, U.D. lost vision on his left side. There is nothing wrong with his eyes, but without his right occipital lobe, he is unable to process the images that his eyes receive from the left side of the visual field. Instead, he would have to turn his head to get a complete picture.

Over the three years following U.D.'s surgery, doctors and researchers tracked his progress, scanned his brain, and conducted behavioral tests to find out how his body has been coping with the loss of a significant part of his nervous system.

The team discovered that his functions in cognition and visual processing are at par with his peers despite not being able to see his left side. U.D.'s capabilities of recognizing and detecting scenes and objects remain the same as before undergoing surgery. His reading proficiency is unchanged as well, still at above average.

Left Hemisphere Makes Up For Right Hemisphere's Shortcomings

Not only has the left hemisphere continued functioning normally, but it has even stepped up to assume some of the responsibilities of the missing right section.

Like any other human, U.D.'s right side of the brain is supposed to detect faces. Now that it cannot, his left side has begun to detect faces, in addition to its normal duties of reading and processing words.

It is an amazing illustration of the brain's adaptability despite the complex and delicate functions it juggles on a day-to-day basis.

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