When I started doing research in to Bray's condition, learning that he was missing parts of his brain was devastating. You automatically assume that because the entire brain isn't there, means that you can't exist. There were hours upon hours of time spent in utter denial because I couldn't wrap my own mind around the fact that he indeed did exist and was doing all these wonderful things that I was told he wouldn't be doing, all the while without the brain that supposedly controls all things. Then I stumbled upon the existence of neuroplasticity, and that was the beginning of great hope for better things and the shear cause of my undying determination. Don't get lost in all the reading, it's truly interesting and enlightening and I wish I could share it with everyone...especially those I've recently encountered with a closed mind and pessimistic attitude.
Brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity, is defined as the lifelong ability of the brain to reorganize the neural pathways, or rewire so to speak, based on new experiences and things learned. As we learn, we acquire new knowledge and skills by repetition and teaching. In order to learn or memorize a fact or skill, there must be persistent functional changes in the brain that represent the new knowledge. The ability of the brain to change with learning is what is known as neuroplasticity. Doing something over and over again begins to make the brain form a new connection, a new pathway of communication and functioning. Pretty amazing, right? All people's brains aren't wired the same, and it's almost as if the brain is a jumbo hunk of clay...regardless of the size of it, it can be molded in to completing the task set forth for it, as long as it has an experienced and determined sculptor!
Proven Facts from the website Neuroscience for kids...that's right, it's easier to understand if it's for kids!!
FACT1: Neuroplasticity includes several different processes that take place throughout a lifetime.
Neuroplasticity does not consist of a single type of morphological change, but rather includes several different processes that occur throughout an individual’s lifetime. Many types of brain cells are involved in neuroplasticity, including neurons, glia, and vascular cells.
FACT 2: Neuroplasticity has a clear age-dependent determinant.
Although plasticity occurs over an individual’s lifetime, different types of plasticity dominate during certain periods of one’s life and are less prevalent during other periods.
FACT 3: Neuroplasticity occurs in the brain under two primary conditions:
1. During normal brain development when the immature brain first begins to process sensory information through adulthood (developmental plasticity and plasticity of learning and memory). 2. As an adaptive mechanism to compensate for lost function and/or to maximize remaining functions in the event of brain injury.
FACT 4: The environment plays a key role in influencing plasticity.
In addition to genetic factors, the brain is shaped by the characteristics of a person's environment and by the actions of that same person.
Also from the website Neuroscience for Kids:
Developmentalneuroplasticity is important during the early years to forming the brain functions when there's very little to work with in some eyes. "Neurons in the brain are like telephone wires that communicate with one another. Following birth, the brain of a newborn is flooded with information from the baby’s sense organs. This sensory information must somehow make it back to the brain where it can be processed. To do so, nerve cells must make connections with one another, transmitting the impulses to the brain. Continuing with the telephone wire analogy, like the basic telephone trunk lines strung between cities, the newborn’s genes instruct the "pathway" to the correct area of the brain from a particular nerve cell. For example, nerve cells in the retina of the eye send impulses to the primary visual area in the occipital lobe of the brain and not to the area of language production ( Wernicke ’s area) in the left posterior temporal lobe. The basic trunk lines have been established, but the specific connections from one house to another require additional signals.
Over the first few years of life, the brain grows rapidly. As each neuron matures, it sends out multiple branches (axons, which send information out, and dendrites, which take in information), increasing the number of synaptic contacts and laying the specific connections from house to house, or in the case of the brain, from neuron to neuron. At birth, each neuron in the cerebral cortex has approximately 2,500 synapses. By the time an infant is two or three years old, the number of synapses is approximately 15,000 synapses per neuron ( Gopnick, etal., 1999). This amount is about twice that of the average adult brain. As we age, old connections are deleted through a process called synaptic pruning. *which is, in my eyes, why it's sooo important to have the information early with a child that has a severe brain condition...the earlier the development starts, the better it will be.
Synaptic pruning eliminates weaker synaptic contacts while stronger connections are kept and strengthened. Experience determines which connections will be strengthened and which will be pruned; connections that have been activated most frequently are preserved. Neurons must have a purpose to survive. Without a purpose, neurons die through a process called apoptosis in which neurons that do not receive or transmit information become damaged and die. Ineffective or weak connections are "pruned" in much the same way a gardener would prune a tree or bush, giving the plant the desired shape. It is plasticity that enables the process of developing and pruning connections, allowing the brain to adapt itself to its environment.
Plasticityof Learning and Memory.
It was once believed that as we aged, the brain’s networks became fixed. In the past two decades, however, an enormous amount of research has revealed that the brain never stops changing and adjusting. Learning, as defined by Tortora and Grabowski (1996), is “the ability to acquire new knowledge or skills through instruction or experience. Memory is the process by which that knowledge is retained over time.” The capacity of the brain to change with learning is plasticity. So how does the brain change with learning? According to Durbach (2000), there appear to be at least two types of modifications that occur in the brain with learning:
~A change in the internal structure of the neurons, the most notable being in the area of synapses.
~An increase in the number of synapses between neurons.
Initially, newly learned data are "stored" in short-term memory, which is a temporary ability to recall a few pieces of information. Some evidence supports the concept that short-term memory depends upon electrical and chemical events in the brain as opposed to structural changes such as the formation of new synapses. One theory of short-term memory states that memories may be caused by “reverberating” neuronal circuits -- that is, an incoming nerve impulse stimulates the first neuron which stimulates the second, and so on, with branches from the second neuron synapsing with the first. After a period of time, information may be moved into a more permanent type of memory, long-term memory, which is the result of anatomical or biochemical changes that occur in the brain ( Tortora and Grabowski, 1996).
Injury-induced Plasticity:Plasticity and Brain Repair
During brain repair following injury, plastic changes are geared towards maximizing function in spite of the damaged brain. In studies involving rats in which one area of the brain was damaged, brain cells surrounding the damaged area underwent changes in their function and shape that allowed them to take on the functions of the damaged cells. Although this phenomenon has not been widely studied in humans, data indicate that similar (though less effective) changes occur in human brains following injury.
They said it!
"The principal activities of brains are making changes in themselves."--Marvin L. Minsky (from Society of the Mind, 1986)
So, this explains the reasons for doing therapies that focus so much on cognition and developing vision and sensory. Brayden does alot of just sitting and staring, he's a baby that can't move much and we make the best of that by working his brain. We started by working on him just focusing on a single object, once he was better at that we worked on tracking objects. He started the vision exercises a few months ago, and it's made such a huge difference! In the beginning, he wouldn't look at anything...now, he not only looks and follows but he reacts with a smile or other gestures of excitement. We basically exercised the muscles working the eyes and made a stronger connection. Same thing with sensory exercises. Many babies are ticklish or react to feeling different textures and temperatures. Brayden did not, however now that we've exposed him constantly to those different feels...he has a reaction, and he's even ticklish now when he never used to be! Cause and effect exercises have really been a new thing with him during his 9 th and early 10 th month, and he's now moving more to get a reaction...the more he does it, the more the "pathways in his brain" are engraved and traveled!
The story of Sharon Parker, a woman who's brain was discovered to be 15% the size of a "typical" brain shows a life experience of how plasticity happens. Here's her story which I read at the website Extraordinary People, which is also a TV show on the BBC:
"Sharon Parker was born and bred in Barnsley, Yorkshire. She's married with three children and is a qualified staff nurse. But, Sharon has almost no observable brain. Since she was a child, doctors have told her that she has no more than 10-15% of a normal brain.
Historically, it was a popular assumption that the size of the brain determined the level of a person's intelligence. By that reckoning, Sharon should be a gibbering idiot.
Dr Jonathan Cole, Consultant Neurophysiologist explains further: "For a long time, people have measured the size of the brain, in post mortem, and and they've measured the size of of heads in people and tried to relate the size of the brain to how bright the person is. There are some people who are severely micro cephalic, with very small brains, and they have severe learning difficulties. But, on the whole, it's very difficult to relate the size of the brain to how it functions. The function of the brain is not something that is related to how big the brain is or to it's volume. Rather it's how well the nerve cells function within that brain. In particular, how well they connect with other brain cells".
Sharon's mother Pat recalls: "We were told, so many times, that Sharon wasn't going to live to adulthood".
Sharon and Dave have been married for fifteen years. Dave has his own construction business. No master of new technology; he still writes his invoices out by hand. Sharon is the one who works them out and puts them on the computer.
Sharon is clearly competent, but just how intelligent is she? She was asked to take an IQ test marked by an educational psychologist. How does she compare with the rest of the population? Dave thinks that Sharon is normal, except for her untidiness. Sharon claims she sees past the untidiness and maybe that part of her brain is missing.
If Sharon has a hole where most people have brain, has she noticed anything else she has difficulty with? She tells us: "Sequences of numbers, telephone numbers, I find hard to remember". The IQ test results that Sharon, far from being an idiot, has an IQ of 113 making her above average. 80% of the population would have a lower score.
So, how did Sharon come to have such an extraordinary brain? When she was eight months old, her parents were worried that her head was unusually large. They took her to see a specialist who diagnosed water on the brain. At nine months they found out she was hydrocephalic and needed surgery.
Traditionally, hydrocephalus or water on the brain was a killer. Occasionally, children survived, but as their heads swelled they became little more than monsters at a freak show.
Mr Cole explains "Hydrocephalus is a build up of fluid within the brain. We all have fluid in the brain, in areas called ventricles and that flows out to bathe the outside of the brain. If that fluid builds up within the ventricles it tends to expand and the brain is pushed out against the skull. In children the skull is not set and the squashing of the brain and the slightly raised pressure can actually lead to an enlargement of the skull itself".
Sharon's life was saved by a pioneering operation in which a valve was put into her brain to control the fluid. By the time her hydrocephalus was detected, the fluid had been building up for nine months, creating an enormous hole in the middle o her brain.
Brains that have developed abnormally are intriguing subjects of research for neuro specialists. Leading American Neurosurgeon Dr Mark Luciano believes there is much that such a brain can tell us.
Dr Luciano says: "For me, Sharon is most interesting because the hydrocephalus has developed so slowly that her brain has adapted very well to allow her to function to a high level. We want to know how the brain can do that". So, Sharon and her family fly to Cleveland, Ohio to meet Dr Luciano, to find out more about what her brain is really like.
Armed with the latest technology and with new tests available, Dr Luciano is hopeful of finding out much more about Sharon's brain than she ever knew before.
First, Sharon goes for an MRI scan, but this is no ordinary scanner. Dr Luciano explains "It is considered one of the fastest scanners in the world. It has a lot of channels and takes lots of pictures at one time. What it can do is not only a standard picture of the brain, it can also get a picture of the blood vessels and blood flow. Sharon's brain scan takes over two hours. Doctors are looking at her brain from every angle, pinpointing functions and checking blood flow. It emerges that Sharon has had a lucky escape. As her brain pressed against her skull, it became dangerously thinned in the crucial frontal lobe.
The outer surface of the normal brain is ridged to give it more surface area, whereas Sharon's brain has been stretched and the surface flattened, especially in the frontal lobe where functions like memory are located.
Back in the 18 th century, there was a fashion for something called phrenology. It was believed that bumps on the skull were a guide to a person's abilities. Phrenologists even mapped the skull to show where different human characteristics were, supposedly, located. These theories have long since been discredited but, in one respect, the phrenologists were not so far from the truth. We now know that different functions are located in specific areas of the brain.
It was only with memory that Sharon showed signs of a problem but, even there the doctors discovered that her brain had made every effort to compensate. Tests showed that she scored well above average on her long-term memory but, below average on her short-term memory. The amazing thing is that she seems, somehow, to combine the two in order to overcome some of her memory problems.
Dr Luciano summarises "Overall, I'm surprised that each test showed so much normalcy. I think she's a very good example of how the brain can adapt to a very unusual situation and that if the forces against the brain occur slowly enough and early enough the brain can be extremely flexible".
For Sharon, the most important discovery the American doctors made concerned the size of her brain. Something that only the very latest technology allowed them to measure. Having been told, all her life, that she has only 10-15% of a normal brain the result came as a welcome surprise, but it was something of a shock for Dave. While the volume of Dave's brain was 1300cc Sharon took great delight in telling him that hers was 2300cc.
The American doctors had discovered that although Sharon's ventricles expanded hugely because of her hydrocephalus, it was not at the expense of brain size. Part of the brain mass was pushed to the bottom rear of her skull and because her infant head swelled slightly her brain is actually occupying a larger space.
Let me restate the fact that this woman has an IQ HIGHER than EIGHTY PERCENT of the population, and she is found to have only 15% of her brain? The difference is that her brain was literally squashed up against the inside of her head, however, it wasn't in the same form as most would associate it to be...yet her brain was able to perform at a higher level than 80% of the population. Ok, so it's no comparison to Brayden missing parts of his brain...however, it does go to show you that you can't ever rule out those other parts of the brain when you need them to stop up to the plate and take a swing...But, there is a story that is of great comparison!
Here's the story of Andrew Vandal, I read his story at another website and just remember the name. Here it is from the InfoVault website:
"There exists a rare, completely bafflingly medical phenomenon called hydrancephaly. To the normal materialistic Western biologist, this condition is astonishing, to say the least. In hydrancephaly, a person's cranial cavity is filled almost totally with fluid, not with brain matter. There may be only 5% or so of the brain in there; typically just the small portion on the tip of the spine. The other 95% of the brain case is filled with fluid. While many dont survive...the ones that do may be as normal as you or I. Except, of course, that x-rays of his head will astonish all the doctors. A few years ago,for example, such a hydrancephalic individual graduated from a university in Great Britain, with a degree in mathematics. British news actually made a video documentary on this subject, and particularly on that individual.
Andrew Vandal was born in Virginia, USA, in 1984 without a brain. Doctors attending the birth were convinced he would die, but he didn't. Andrew survived to be adopted by a nurse from Connecticut who describes him as a "glowing, outgoing bubbly personality". Mrs.Vandal has two other children with the same condition. One of them, a girl, was still going strong at the age of 12 without a brain. In 1982, ITV broadcast a program which included the case history of a boy named Stephen who managed five 'O' levels without a brain. (if you held a light against his head it would glow an empty pink). Later however, Stephen managed to regrow the missing organ, a medical mystery just as deep as how he got along for so long without it. Now obviously hydrancephaly proves rather conclusively that it isn't really the brain matter or the electrical wiggles in the two hemispheres that constitute the mind. Those wiggles normally are correlated with, and communicate back and forth with, the internal Whittaker dynamics of the bio- potential. The brain is a special communications and processing station, interfacing sensors and processed stuff from the external world to the Whittaker-sets, and outputs from the Whittaker-sets to the body and cells. If just a small functioning part of this "way station" remains fully functional, the interfacing still exists.
Question: Can you shed any light on the functioning of the fluid that fills 95% of the brain cavity of a hydrancephalic?Perhaps a little bit. There's an interesting thing about fluid __ about water. The hydrogen bonding structure of water is enormously complex and richly varying. Bond- structuring of water constitutes a special kind of "neo- Whittaker" substructure inside a special kind of potential for that particular body of water. A glass of water, for example, has an overall neo-potential comprised of its hydrogen bond structuring. That water will change its internal bonding structure if you enter the room, or if you blink your eye while observing it. It continually adjusts to everything in its surroundings. The reason is, everything in its environment has charges, and clumps or orderings or structures of potential. And the internal Whittaker structures of all those potentials overlap because the potentials overlap. Therefore the internal bidirectional Whittaker EM waves intercommute. The internal dynamics of the water receives inputs from the surroundings this way, and the water's bonding structure changes accordingly. We've only known the complexity and richness of this water structuring for less than two decades, and so far as I know, no one else seems to be considering the Whittaker infolded EM wave structure aspects of it.
The point is this: In the fluid inside the head of a functional hydrancephalic, the water structuring is quite sufficient to provide the rest of the needed "way-station two-way tuner, processor, and transmitter-receiver." The reason is quite simple: The potential of the fluid constitutes a partial potential in the overall bio-potential of the body. It's like the pressure of a mixture of gases: the overall pressure consists of the partial pressures of the component gases. The Whittaker structures ensure intermingling and intercommunication through the internal energy channels of the total bio-potential to all its constituents. Therefore the water structuring of the fluid in the head of the hydrancephalic serves - bridgewise - as a substitute brain."
Now that is truly amazing, a complete miracle disguised as a "medical mystery". Here's another article in regards to Andrew Vandal and the hydran condition. From the website: http://www.flatrock.org.nz/topics/science/is_the_brain_really_necessary.htm
Aristotle taught that the brain exists merely to cool the blood and is not involved in the process of thinking.This is true only of certain persons.
- Will Cuppy
This was the question asked by British neurologist John Lorber when he addressed a conference of pædiatricians in 1980. Such a frivolous sounding question was sparked by case studies Lorber had been involved in since the mid-60s. The case studies involve victims of an ailment known as hydrocephalus, more commonly known as water on the brain. The condition results from an abnormal build up of cerebrospinal fluid and can cause severe retardation and death if not treated.
Two young children with hydrocephalus referred to Lorber presented with normal mental development for their age. In both children, there was no evidence of a cerebral cortex. One of the children died at age 3 months, the second at 12 months. He was still following a normal development profile with the exception of the apparent lack of cerebral tissue shown by repeated medical testing. An account of the children was published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.
Later, a colleague at Sheffield University became aware of a young man with a larger than normal head. He was referred to Lorber even though it had not caused him any difficulty. Although the boy had an IQ of 126 and had a first class honours degree in mathematics, he had "virtually no brain". A noninvasive measurement of radio density known as CAT scan showed the boy's skull was lined with a thin layer of brain cells to a millimeter in thickness. The rest of his skull was filled with cerebrospinal fluid. The young man continues a normal life with the exception of his knowledge that he has no brain.
Although anecdotal accounts may be found in medical literature, Lorber is the first to provide a systematic study of such cases. He has documented over 600 scans of people with hydrocephalus and has broken them into four groups:
~those with nearly normal brains
~those with 50-70% of the cranium filled with cerebrospinal fluid
~those with 70-90% of the cranium filled with cerebrospinal fluid
~and the most severe group with 95% of the cranial cavity filled with cerebrospinal fluid.
Of the last group, which comprised less than 10% of the study, half were profoundly retarded. The remaining half had IQs greater than 100. Skeptics have claimed that it was an error of interpretation of the scans themselves. Lorber himself admits that reading a CAT scan can be tricky. He also has said that he would not make such a claim without evidence. In answer to attacks that he has not precisely quantified the amount of brain tissue missing, he added, "I can't say whether the mathematics student has a brain weighing 50 grams or 150 grams, but it is clear that it is nowhere near the normal 1.5 kilograms."
Many neurologists feel that this is a tribute to the brain's redundancy and its ability to reassign functions. Others, however, are not so sure. Patrick Wall, professor of anatomy at University College, London states "To talk of redundancy is a cop-out to get around something you don't understand."
Norman Geschwind, a neurologist at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital agrees: "Certainly the brain has a remarkable capacity for reassigning functions following trauma, but you can usually pick up some kind of deficit with the right tests, even after apparently full recovery."
Anthony Smith The Mind New York Viking Press, 1984, page 230
Roger Lewin "Is Your Brain Really Necessary?"Science 210 December 1980, page 1232
KeelyNet BBS (214) 324-3501Sponsored by Vangard SciencesPO BOX 1031Mesquite, Texas 75150
Source:web.syr.edu30 October 1993
Dev Med Child Neurol. 1992 Jul; 34(7):623 - 32. Related Articles, Links
Reciprocal neurological developments of twins discordant for hydrocephalus.
Berker E, Goldstein G, Lorber J, Priestley B, Smith APsychology Department, Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital, Michigan 49008
Norman Geschwind, a neurologist at the Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, strikes a different note. "Deep structures in the brain are undoubtedly important for many functions,"he agrees, "but I don't believe the explanation that the cortex does far less than we think is very sound." And neither does David Bowsher, professor of neurophysiology at Liverpool University, England: "I don't think we attribute more to the cortex than it deserves." Bower, however, takes the middle ground, with the suggestion that "the deep structures are almost certainly more important than is currently thought."
On the question of the brain's spare capacity there is equal contention. "To talk of redundancy in the brain is an intellectual cop-out to try to get round something you don't understand,"states Wall. Geschwind agrees: "Certainly the brain has a remarkable capacity for reassigning functions following trauma, but you can usually pick up some kind of deficit with the right tests, even after apparently full recovery." However, Colin Blakemore. professor of physiology at Oxford University, England, sees spare capacity as an important quality of the human brain. "The brain frequently has to cope with minor lesions and it's crucial that it can overcome these readily,"he says, "there may be some reorganisation of brain tissue, but mostly there's a re-allocation of function."
Crucial to the approach to treatment of hydrocephalus is the brain's ability to recuperate following the release of fluid pressure when a shunt is implanted. One of the canons of neurobiology is that, once damaged, cells in the central nervous system are unable to repair themselves. Does Lorber's work dent this hallowed concept too? "When you implant a shunt in a young hydrocephalic child you often see complete restoration of overall brain structure, even in cases where initially there is no detectable mantle,"claims Lorber. "There must be true regeneration of brain substance in some sense, but I'm not necessarily saying that nerve cells regenerate,"he says cautiously; "I don't think anyone knows fully about that."
What, then, is happening when a hydrocephalic brain rebounds from being a thin layer lining a fluid-filled cranium to become an apparently normal structure when released from hydrostatic pressure? According to Epstein and on the basis of his colleagues' observations on experimental cats, the term rebound aptly describes the reconstitution process, with stretched fibres shortening, thus diminishing the previously expanded ventricular space. Within a short time scar tissue forms, constructed from the glial cells that pack between the nerve cells. "The reconstitution of the mantle,"report Epstein and his colleagues, "does not result in the reformation of lost elements, but rather in the formation of aglial scar and possibly a return to function of the remaining elements."
Lorber claims that his observations on the dramatic recovery of severely affected young children imply that "clinicians shouldn't give up in the face of an apparently hopeless case; a shunt operation at an early stage has a good chance of producing a normal individual." In mild cases, or ones that develop slowly and late, Lorber takes a different approach. Citing the example of the mathematics student and others like him, he proposes that perhaps the surgical knife should be stayed, "because a shunt operation makes an individual forever dependent on surgical care, and in any case many of these subjects can lead perfectly normal lives." The difference is between the acute and chronic conditions.
What of the Lorber approach to hydrocephalus? "His attitude is based on many years of clinical experience,"says Gerald Hochwald of New York University Medical Center, "and it contains a certain amount of value." Thomas Milhorat, a neurosurgeon at the Children's Hospital in Washington, DC, voices strong support for Lorber, in spite of many differences of opinion. "I'm glad there's a John Lorber,"says Milhorat; "he could be more moderate in the way he expresses things, but a moderate view would not emerge if someone were not speaking out strongly."
As to the question "Is your brain really necessary?"Lorber admits that it is only half serious. "You have to be dramatic in order to make people listen,"concedes the tactician. Bower's answer to the tongue-in-cheek question is this: "Although Lorber's work doesn't demonstrate that we don't need a brain, it does show that the brain can work in conditions we would have thought impossible." Bower occasionally complains that Lorber's style is less scientific than it might be. He concedes, however, that "there are still many questions to be answered about the human brain, and it has to be admitted that Lorber's provocative approach does make you think about them."
Individual cells may be more powerful than thought
There could be enough computing ability in just one brain cell to allow humans and animals to feel, a study suggests. The brain has 100 billion neurons but scientists had thought they needed to join forces in larger networks to produce thoughts and sensations. The Dutch and German study, published in Nature, found that stimulating just one rat neuron could deliver the sensation of touch. One UK expert said this was the first time this had been measured in mammals.
The complexity of the human brain and how it stores countless thoughts, sensations and memories are still not fully understood. Researchers believe connections between individual neurons, forming networks of at least 1,000, are the key to some of its processing power. However, in some creatures with simpler nervous systems, such as flies, a single neuron can play a more significant role. The latest research suggests this may also be true in "higher" animals. The team, from the Humboldt University in Germany and the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands, stimulated single neurons in rats and found this was enough to trigger a behavioural response when their whiskers were touched.
A second research project from the US suggests the computational ability of the brain cell could be even more complex, with different synapses - the many junctions between neurons and other nerve cells - able to act independently from those found elsewhere on the same cell. This could mean that, within a single neuron, different synapses could be storing or processing completely different bits of information.
Dr Douglas Armstrong, the deputy director of the Edinburgh Centre for Bioinformatics, said the research did not mean all neurons had an individual role to play but that, in some instances, they might be capable of working alone with measurable results. He said: "The generally accepted model was that networks or arrays make decisions and that the influence of a single neuron is smaller - but this work and other recent studies support a more important role for the individual neuron. These studies drive down the level at which relevant computation is happening in the brain."
Source:news.bbc.co.uk22 December 2007
What and Where Is Consciousness?
Science tells us that particular areas of the brain carry out specific functions, so how do people with damaged or underdeveloped brains still function normally?
In 1996 in the US, a young boy, here referred to as James, was about to undergo a serious operation. James was only eight years old and suffered from a condition known as Sturge-Weber syndrome, which had caused the formation of abnormal blood vessels in the left hemisphere of his brain. As a result he was afflicted by regular epileptic fits and had a very low mental age; the only word in James's vocabulary was "Mamma."
In an attempt to to rectify the problem, doctors felt forced to take drastic steps. They decided to remove the entire left side of his brain the medical team knew that, since the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, the operation to save James's life would also leave him partially paralysed. What they didn't expect, however, were the developments in James's condition which occurred soon after the surgery. Within weeks, James began to talk and, two years later, was close to reaching a normal mental age. Amazingly, the operation to remove an entire hemisphere of his brain appears to have cured him of his learning difficulties.
Such remarkable examples of adaptability are far more common than we might think. In conflict with established medical thinking, there are literally hundreds of cases where people have either been born with an underdeveloped brain, or have had large areas of their brain damaged in an accident, but are still able to function normally.
Such anomalies were partly explained when it was discovered that we have the ability to relocate particular brain functions to other areas of the brain. Exactly how this works is still beyond modern science, and so the ability lies in limbo between accepted medical fact and that which is still regarded as nonsense. However, it may be that this discovery is only the tip of the iceberg, for there are people whose very existence seems to indicate that our brains are nowhere near as vital to our survival as we might think.
In countries across the world, there are hundreds of cases of a condition called hydrocephalus (often known colloquially as "water on the brain"), where cavities form in the brain that can be so large that they account for 95% of the brain's mass. This leaves only a fluid-filled bubble of the outermost cerebral tissue which, in extreme cases, has been found to be less than one millimetre thick. (Ordinarily, the walls of the cerebrum are 45mm thick.) The condition is so serious that, if it is recognised before birth, a decision is often taken to terminate the pregnancy because only a small proportion of sufferers survive.
In those born with this condition, the body's production of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) which fills the cavities in the brain is working at a rate well above the norm. This usually leads to a swelling of the cranium; one six-year-old boy had a skull with a circumference 72cm greater than that of the average adult. Modern techniques, however, allowed doctors to drain the fluid until normal pressure was restored and the boy survived.
Despite the seriousness of this condition, in some people it appears to have little or no affect on their intellectual abilities. Indeed, to the surprise of the medical establishment, in a study of 253 hydrocephalus sufferers carried out by the University of Sheffield, Professor John Lorber discovered that there is no relation between volume of brain tissue and IQ.
Of the 253 subjects in the study, 9 were found to have approximately only 5% of the normal amount of brain tissue. Despite this, 4 had IQ's of above 100, the national average, and another 2 had IQ's of above 126, while one of the subjects proved to be as intelligent as those studying him, he had a first-class degree in maths.
One possible explanation for such achievements as this is the neopallium, which forms the very outermost layer of the brain. Since the brains are larger with hydrocephalus sufferers, they have larger neopalliums while the brain mass is diminished in bulk. The neopallium is the site for some of the most important mental functions, such as the power of reasoning.
Cases such as these have been cropping up regularly to test the stability of modern medicine, yet are largely disregarded. They undermine established beliefs about the relationship between the human brain and the site of consciousness and so are largely ignored by mainstream medical science. When asked about the impact of his research into hydrocephalus sufferers, Professor Lorber said it had "suffered a fate like much of the literature of phenomenological science: it was ignored."
While science chooses to blinker itself, these medical anomalies continue to walk the streets, their fluid-filled craniums not preventing them from leading normal lives and taking degrees.
One related case that has received more exposure than most is that of Andrew Vandal, who was born on 12 July 1984. In the early stages of his development in the womb a cyst appeared on the stem of his brain. Known as an atelencephic aprosencephaly, this destructive event left the boy with a cranium containing nothing but fluid. In some cases, it can even leave victims with no detectible brain at all - a condition known as anencephaly or "brainlessness." Cases like Andrew's are again usually terminated before birth, but in this instance the subject was born and then put up for adoption. He was adopted by a pædiatric nurse, Kaye Vandal, from Wallingford, Connecticut, US, who, when last asked about Andrew's welfare, stated that she remained devoted to "giving him the best quality life for however long he lives." At the same time, Kaye stated that, against doctors' predictions, Andrew was able to laugh, giggle and smile and, has a "glowing, outgoing, bubbly personality." Kaye also stated that her young charge was able to respond to stimulus and was maturing mentally; both of which doctors believed to be impossible, considering his complete absence of brain matter.
Andrew was, however, unable to speak, and was cortically blind; that is, he could see images, but was unable to interpret them. Andrew was also incapable of walking, but did manage to drag himself along on his back. Cases such as Andrew's provide real-life testimony to our astonishing adaptability as biological organisms.
Ok, that is alot of reading...but, think that I spent MANY hours looking for a reason to believe. I found many, and those stories and articles are just the beginning. SO, if you're wondering if I'm in denial of my son's condition and not at all being realistic...you should now understand why I will never give up and have the hope that I have! Hopefully this information can be found here and I'm able to bring another family to this world of hope for children with hydran or other "terminal" brain conditions. I, ultimately believe in the power of prayer, but sometimes some science really helps you put things into an explainable reasoning to share with others.