Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tiny brain no obstacle to French civil servant

I think this is the most amazing news in a long time.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A man with an unusually tiny brain managed to live an entirely normal life despite his condition, caused by a fluid buildup in his skull, French researchers reported on Thursday.

Scans of the 44-year-old man's brain showed that a huge fluid-filled chamber called a ventricle took up most of the room in his skull, leaving little more than a thin sheet of actual brain tissue.

"He was a married father of two children, and worked as a civil servant," Dr. Lionel Feuillet and colleagues at the Universite de la Mediterranee in Marseille wrote in a letter to the Lancet medical journal.

The man went to a hospital after he had mild weakness in his left leg. When Feuillet's staff took his medical history, they learned he had had a shunt inserted into his head to drain away hydrocephalus -- water on the brain -- as an infant.

The shunt was removed when he was 14.

So the researchers did a computed tomography (CT) scan and another type of scan called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They were astonished to see "massive enlargement" of the lateral ventricles -- usually tiny chambers that hold the cerebrospinal fluid that cushions the brain.

Intelligence tests showed the man had an IQ of 75, below the average score of 100 but not considered mentally retarded or disabled, either.

"What I find amazing to this day is how the brain can deal with something which you think should not be compatible with life," commented Dr. Max Muenke, a pediatric brain defect specialist at the National Human Genome Research Institute.

"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," added Muenke, who was not involved in the case.

In this brain scan of a 44-year-old French civil servant, the dark area shows the swollen, fluid-filled space that has crowded his skull, leaving little room for his brain. (Lancet)


Bumsby said...

I've heard somewhere we actually use about 5% of our brain in our daily lives.

Nadl said...

do i have to read this? i ant see clearly (guess what :p )

sapph said...

Of course, there is also the obvious comment about how you don't really need a brain to be a civil servant, anyway....


Bumsby said...

LOL! I knew someone would say that.... and I agree *tape*

But apart from this, it makes you think of the hidden potentialities of the "normal" human brain.

I wonder what the world would be like if we all used it to the full. And it's also a puzzle why we never push it...

sapph said...

Yes, the human brain and its untapped potential is a thing of mystery and wonder.

Makes you wonder what we could do if we used all of our brains... and also makes you wonder if things like ESP are so far-fetched after all; maybe it's just that some individuals have tapped into their unused resources where most of us haven't.

(Pure speculation, of course, but I get a kick out of that kind of thing, which is why I love sci-fi, too. Real sci-fi, not space opera.)

Anonymous said...

What science fiction do you read, sapph?