Is there life without a Brain ?

Samiktha Sudhakar
Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated organ ever created, It has 86 billion neurons, each neuron connected to other neurons forming over 1 quadrillion connections. Named as the most complex manifestation of intelligence is our Brain. The brain is made of soft nervous tissues that controls all our body functions. It functions as the coordinating center of our central nervous system in all vertebrates and invertebrates. But there is a question that I am sure many of us must have thought of at least once “Can we live without a brain?”. There are some fascinating instances where people have lived normal lives with abnormal brains.

The first instance occurred in 2001 when Trevor Waltrip was born without a forebrain. This condition is extremely rare and is called Hydranencephaly where the usual cerebral hemispheres are absent, and the cranial cavity is filled with just cerebrospinal fluid. But even without a brain, Trevor Waltrip lived for about 12 years. Thus, he set an example of the limits of human survival without a brain. But how did he manage to live without a brain? Even though he did not have his cerebral hemispheres, he still had his brain stem intact. This enabled him to breathe, maintain his heartbeat and respond to some basic stimuli. Proving that the brain stem is one of the most important parts of the brain which is necessary for human survival.

Again, back in 2014, doctors in China were shocked when they discovered that a 24-year-old woman was living without her cerebellum which is an important section of the brain that holds up to 50 % of a person's total neurons. It all began when her mother brought her into a Chinese hospital in Shandong Province because she was complaining of nausea and dizziness. Since migraines are common, doctors thought it was normal but still conducted a CT scan to see if there were any abnormalities. To their shock and awe, they found that the woman had a giant gap where her cerebellum should be. In fact, the cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls balance, voluntary movement, and the ability to learn motor skills and speech. Even crazier, the woman had no idea of her condition and had been living out a pretty normal, full life, proving just how little, we know about the brain and how it can adapt to cope with such a condition. Most of our brain parts have the power to adapt to the functionality of other parts. This phenomenon is popularly called Neuroplasticity which enabled her to lead a normal life.

Isn’t all this fascinating? This is just one of the wonders of our human body. In a nutshell, I think that “The Human body is a giant puzzle yet to be solved ”. Don’t you agree ??

Samiktha Sudhakar
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