Early in my neurosurgical career, I was called to the emergency room to see a four-year-old boy who had had a stroke. He was playing on a sofa and fell on his head, twisting his neck. He told his mom that his head hurt—then lapsed into a coma.
The CT scan showed that he had torn his vertebral artery, which is a vital artery that traverses the bones of the neck and provides blood flow to critical parts of the brain (see the illustration at right below). His damaged brain was swelling dangerously; quite simply, he was dying.
We rushed him to the operating room, where I removed the permanently damaged part of his brain—most of his left cerebellar hemisphere—to take the pressure off of his brainstem so as to save his life. The cerebellum plays an important role in coordination so I had to tell his family that he would likely be handicapped, both from the stroke and the need to remove the damaged part of his brain. …
Well, you can read for yourself how that turned out. Dr. Egnor notes,
The [19th-century] phrenologists were quite wrong— high-level intellectual function localizes very little or not at all to specific brain regions—but phrenology hasn’t really died out, despite the collapse of its evidence base. Modern neuroscience is riddled with high-tech phrenology, based on materialist assumptions that the brain is a hard drive and the mind is the program that runs on it. The use of an analogy to computation to understand the brain and the mind is fraught with fallacies. More.
Also at Mind Matters Today: Boy loses large hunk of brain. And is “doing just fine.” When pundits talk glibly of creating artificial minds or claim that consciousness is an illusion, it might help to remember that few predicted cases like this could exist and few thought that high tech diagnostics would lead to their discovery. [This was a different, much more recent case. – ed.]