How Much of a Brain Can One do Without?

Zoe

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Even though it is still common for folks to think brain damage is permanent or that all brain areas work in specific ways, this is not true. We are always making new brain cells and many people develop normally, despite being born with very abnormal brains. Below is a very good example from a study of hydrocephallus of how the brain can adapt to challenges it may face;

http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/brain/development/ten_percent_brain_myth_2007.html

John Lorber and hydrocephalus

The most well-known neurologist who argued that brain size could radically shrink without functional compromise was John Lorber. Lorber's work with patients of hydrocephalus received substantial public attention, including a documentary film and a profile by writer Roger Lewin in Science. Lorber studied hundreds of cases of hydrocephaly, but the value -- or lack of value -- of his evidence is illustrated by a single anecdote:

"There's a young student at this university," says Lorber, "who has an IQ of 126, has gained a first-class honors degree in mathematics, and is socially completely normal. And yet the boy has virtually no brain." The student's physician at the university noticed that the youth had a slightly larger than normal head, and so referred him to Lorber, simply out of interest. "When we did a brain scan on him," Lorber recalls, "we saw that instead of the normal 4.5-centimeter thickness of brain tissue between the ventricles and the cortical surface, there was just a thin layer of mantle measuring a millimeter or so. His cranium is filled mainly with cerebrospinal fluid" (Lewin 1980:1232).
Much of the apparent "surprise" in this case owes to the presumably small total volume of the brain, and the cerebrum in particular. Lorber interpreted the small cortical volume coupled with normal -- or even "superior" -- cognitive performance as especially surprising.
:pop:
 

Nakamova

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I remember seeing a documentary about a similar case, a woman who suffered from hydrocephalus at birth. Though left with very little physical brain matter due to the fluid pressure, what remained developed all the same capabilities as a "full-sized" brain.
 

Zolt

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Hey Zoe, this is Zolt.

Thank God the brain can do without some mass, otherwise i'd be a mental patient. Well wait a minute, the jury is still out on that, depending on who you talk to.

Well my brain was forced into doing without 1/4 of it's size. When i saw the pictures, it looked like a shark had bitten off parts of my brain. The volume of my brain tumor was 202 cubic centamiters. The volume of a baseball is 201 cubic centimeters.

Luckily the brain is like a spoonge, where you can push on it and it will come back to size once the pressure is gone, so my neuro says. The big gap in my brain had repopulated most of the space were the tumor was, so i'm glad that is the case.

Zolt

:piano: :pop:
 

MichaelJO7

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The brain textbook I am reading compared the brains of Einstein (whose brain the examiners had on hand) with other brains, and tried to determine what differences, if any, accounted for Einstein being the way he was. Although he did have a wider brain than normal, the examiners found a fold missing in the part of Einstein's brain which processed mathematics. They thought that this might account for that part of his brain being superior--better processing speed for example, since there was less distance for a signal to travel.

Upon examination of other prominent persons of apparent superior intellect, they found that brain size does not necessarily affect intellect.

I still think that structure does determine function. This does not necessarily mean that function is dependent upon structure, although that by and large tends to be the case. There must be partially or fully unidentified mechanisms responsible for exceptions. It is difficult to fathom/comprehend.
 
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Zoe

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Hey Zoe, this is Zolt.

Thank God the brain can do without some mass, otherwise i'd be a mental patient. Well wait a minute, the jury is still out on that, depending on who you talk to.

Well my brain was forced into doing without 1/4 of it's size. When i saw the pictures, it looked like a shark had bitten off parts of my brain. The volume of my brain tumor was 202 cubic centamiters. The volume of a baseball is 201 cubic centimeters.

Luckily the brain is like a spoonge, where you can push on it and it will come back to size once the pressure is gone, so my neuro says. The big gap in my brain had repopulated most of the space were the tumor was, so i'm glad that is the case.

Zolt

:piano: :pop:
Hi Zolt,

Considering that you are here and writing posts, is clear indication of the brain's ability to adapt and repair itself. Assuming the tumor developed over time, your brain may have been adapting and recovering as the tumor began to do it's damage. How might this affect the brain's development during childhood?

As I grew up I developed totally ambidextrous, completely left and right handed. My language skills were much higher than average. When tested a year before the massive paralyzing stroke, the results showed I had two language centers, equally developed, one in each hemisphere. The pyschologist said he could not find a statistical difference of even one between the two hemispheres, language, ambidexterity and all else he evaluated.

I had a friend who has the same type vascular disoder. He also grew up to be totally ambidextrous, with exceptional language skills, and became an engineer and architect.

Like you, our brains were likely doing repair and recovery as the damage occurred and afterwards. Now too, it is well known that physical brain damage is not irreversible. As long as we are living we are developing new cells and pathways in our brains.

After my first brain surgery, I got a copy of my brain scans which showed the large areas of injury where my temporal lobe used to be. Fortunately I had access to senory deprivation tanks, tanks of saltwater that were light and sound proof.

I floated in the tank an hour a day five days a week. Before floating I studied my brain scans. While in the tank I visualized my brain forming new nerve pathways that would enable my fingers to move and allow me to regain the ability to speak in complete sentences. After several months my speech was improving and I got my left thumb to move. Now there are no signs I was ever "hopelessly" paralyzed.

So keep letting your sponge soak up the brain food, and candy, you feed it! . No limits.:woot:
 
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MichaelJO7

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Zoe,

Did you ever use a hyperbaric chamber? Some research suggests that greater oxygenation to the brain can speed recovery for persons who have had strokes.
 

Zoe

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The brain textbook I am reading compared the brains of Einstein (whose brain the examiners had on hand) with other brains, and tried to determine what differences, if any, accounted for Einstein being the way he was. Although he did have a wider brain than normal, the examiners found a fold missing in the part of Einstein's brain which processed mathematics. They thought that this might account for that part of his brain being superior--better processing speed for example, since there was less distance for a signal to travel.

Upon examination of other prominent persons of apparent superior intellect, they found that brain size does not necessarily affect intellect.

I still think that structure does determine function. This does not necessarily mean that function is dependent upon structure, although that by and large tends to be the case. There must be partially or fully unidentified mechanisms responsible for exceptions. It is difficult to fathom/comprehend.

In general terms yes, structure will correspond to some type of function in many persons. But what's "true" in one culture may not be true in another. Nor does this explain the person noted above who had hydrocephalus. It also wouldn't explain another case.

When being evaluated for my second brain surgery, my roommate was also being evaluated as she had drug resistant seizures also. She was in her late thirties, mom to several children. Her only known neurological disorder were her seizures.

The results of her brain scans at the hospital (her first) left the neuros speechless. Her brain was truly lobeless. She had a normal size brain, but it was a single mass, no folds, no lobes whatsoever. Obviously, the form and function general rules did not apply to her brain. I seriously doubted the surgeons would consider a temporal lobectomy in her case.:roflmao:
 
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Zoe

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Zoe,

Did you ever use a hyperbaric chamber? Some research suggests that greater oxygenation to the brain can speed recovery for persons who have had strokes.
No, I have damaged, blocked and leaking blood vessels throughout my brain, no fix for that. Just have to accept and live like I'll be here forever.:woot:
 
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I don't underestimate that the brain is like this sponge filled cauliflower that has so much happening in it.

There is still so much to understand, learn and open our minds to ""what if "".
 

Cint

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Thank God the brain can do without some mass, otherwise i'd be a mental patient.

Luckily the brain is like a spoonge,
:agree: I had a left temporal lobectomy for my seizures, and still can operate without some of my brain. I was in to see my neurologist just the other day and she was impressed that I'm living alone and had just moved so I'd be closer to public transportation and downtown. I love being downtown and I'm not afraid.

After my brain surgery, I did and do have some memory problems. But after going thru therapy and reading this book "The Brain That Changes Itself", I've learned that we all can "redesign" our brains. Neuroplasticity.
 

Zoe

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:agree: I had a left temporal lobectomy for my seizures, and still can operate without some of my brain. I was in to see my neurologist just the other day and she was impressed that I'm living alone and had just moved so I'd be closer to public transportation and downtown. I love being downtown and I'm not afraid.

After my brain surgery, I did and do have some memory problems. But after going thru therapy and reading this book "The Brain That Changes Itself", I've learned that we all can "redesign" our brains. Neuroplasticity.
Hi Clint,
It's great you found that book. When I had my
temporal lobectomy, 1980s, the current doctrine was that the brain damage is irreversible. Any sign of progress was met with, "that's as far as you'll ever get." Finding and reading Pietsch's book, "ShuffleBrain," showed me that recovery, from memory problems etc. is possible. To the degree we can come to understand our losses, we can find ways to relearn and repattern the brain. I will look up this book you mentioned. Can you post the author and a review? I'm sure a lot of us here can benefit from it.​
 

Zolt

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Just to let everyone know what i was dealing with, i've uploaded some before and after MRI pictures of my surgery in the picture album section. Not sure if I did it right, but I think it's there. This was like 9.5 yrs ago these pictures, I'll have to upload a current one which looks a lot better.

Through my readings, i read that Einsteins Parietal lobes were bigger than most.

I think as long as the core center of the brain does not get damaged, the rest of the brain can make new paths and redistribute the network that makes us who we are in order to function.

The type of brain tumor i had was a meninginoma, one of the better tumors out there, since it doesn't actually invade the inside of the brain, but the pressure, it causes is normally the cause of death if not removed. My tumor was on top of the motor and sensory strips, mainly on the parietal lobe, and touching the frontal lobe as well. There was a torsion on my spine as well. They told me i would go into a coma if i didn't get it operated on right away. Can you imagine being in a hospital alone in the emergency room being told you have such a big tumor. But it was a relief to know what was behind my strange things that had happened to me the previous few years and did not know what the were about. They were seizures, but at the time i totally knew nothing about seizures or how to relate it to my doc. The headaches in the mornings were horrible, that what i complained about to my regular doctor, but nothing really came out of those visits. It was after i had a grand mal that i went into the ER after i had talked to an advise nurse telling her i had a faint spell at work. She said come into ER right away.

I read somewhere that Meninginomas grow like 3mm per year, that is if they are not in a dormant state. So Lord knows how long i had it in me, maybe i was born with it. Or might of been one of the many accidents i had were my head was involved. And did not heal properly.

I found the url location for the pictures i uploaded and it's at:

Before surgery:
http://www.coping-with-epilepsy.com/forums/members/zolt-albums-430-mri-pics-picture3594-before-surgery.jpg

After surgery:
http://www.coping-with-epilepsy.com/forums/members/zolt-albums-430-mri-pics-picture3595-after-surgery.jpg

:piano: :pop:
 
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Cint

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Hi Clint,
It's great you found that book. When I had my
temporal lobectomy, 1980s, the current doctrine was that the brain damage is irreversible. Any sign of progress was met with, "that's as far as you'll ever get." Finding and reading Pietsch's book, "ShuffleBrain," showed me that recovery, from memory problems etc. is possible. To the degree we can come to understand our losses, we can find ways to relearn and repattern the brain. I will look up this book you mentioned. Can you post the author and a review? I'm sure a lot of us here can benefit from it.​


"The Brain That Changes Itself" was written by Norman Doidge, M.D.

Here's a review:
An astonishing new science called "neuroplasticity" is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the human brain is immutable. In this revolutionary look at the brain, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, M.D., provides an introduction to both the brilliant scientists championing neuroplasticity and the people whose lives they've transformed. From stroke patients learning to speak again to the remarkable case of a woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole, The Brain That Changes Itself will permanently alter the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential.

His newest book, "The Brain's Way of Healing:Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries From the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity" is a continuation of this book. I find it fascinating.​
 

Belinda5000

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I just had to mention this my husband had a left temporal lobectomy in 1972.
He had it done at N.I.H. He had a white mass removed and my husband is a genius in math and just about anything he sets his mind to except spelling.He says that's what he has me for.

I had a right temporal lobectomy in 1982 my cognitive functions were only affected when I was on certain medication Dilantin and I was on it 26 years and after I came off; my memories came flooding back.
 

Nakamova

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I love hearing how the brain rebuilds and rewires; your stories are very inspirational.
 

Belinda5000

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If I had a memory in school like I did now I would of made straight A's and my hubby hates my memory sometime.
 

Dutch mom

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We do have several children on our Dutch forum who had a hemispherectomy so they do have just one brain half left which functions.

There is this one particular girl who had a brain bleeding when she was still in the womb. She developed West syndrome after she was born and her prognosis wasn't good at all, her parents were told she would function like a plant. At first she was denied for the operation because the epilepsy seemed to spread over both brain halves. Later on the professor decided to give her the benefit of the doubt because the risk of loss of functions didn't seemed to matter as much as when a child functions better than she did. In the years after the hemispherectomy the epilepsy totally disappeared, she leaned how to talk, walk and instead of being tube fed she leaned to eat and drink normally. She's med free now. She is mentally disabled but can function well enough to be happy, go to special education and makes her parents very happy, just on that one brain half that took over all functions. We do consider her a medical wonder and an encouragement to all other parents who stand for the decision to perform brain surgery on their child.
 

Zoe

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The girl you mention is a miracle. Her ability to adapt to brain injury as it is taking place is ecouragement to others to know that the brain can heal itself-is designed to do so.
 

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Many, many years ago, I read a fascinating and odd book that had 3-4 sections to it, each focusing on an interesting (and unrelated) subject. I can't recall the title of the book right now :(. Anyway, one of the sections dealt with the idea that our brains work like a holographic computer. Memory is stored like a hologram. When the brain is whole, it retains maximum information about each hologram (memory) and memory is sharp (can be perfect if you have eidetic memory). Folks who suffer injuries/damage to the brain still retain all their memories, but some information is lost, so the memories get fuzzy.

It is an interesting idea, and if it were an accurate description of how the brain works, it would have interesting implications to the question raised in the OP.

We might posit that there are several important factors that govern the functional capacity of the brain - memory storage, memory recall, analytical cognition, creative cognition. How much brain is required for each? I don't know, but is seems clear to me that some people have better function in some areas than others.
 
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