Mind Neuroscience

Woman of 24 found has no cerebellum in her brain?

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Remember that guy, 88, with no corpus callosum (he came to medical attention after complaining of mild, common late life issues)? Now this, from New Scientist:

The discovery was made when the woman was admitted to the Chinese PLA General Hospital of Jinan Military Area Command in Shandong Province complaining of dizziness and nausea. She told doctors she’d had problems walking steadily for most of her life, and her mother reported that she hadn’t walked until she was 7 and that her speech only became intelligible at the age of 6.

There is a hole where her cerebellum, thought to control the learning of voluntary motion, should be.

Although it is not unheard of to have part of your brain missing, either congenitally or from surgery, the woman joins an elite club of just nine people who are known to have lived without their entire cerebellum. A detailed description of how the disorder affects a living adult is almost non-existent, say doctors from the Chinese hospital, because most people with the condition die at a young age and the problem is only discovered on autopsy (Brain, doi.org/vh7).

That elite club would almost certainly have a much larger membership if most people who died had their brains autopsied. Indeed, a number of other brain-absent states might be discovered.

However, in this woman, the missing cerebellum resulted in only mild to moderate motor deficiency, and mild speech problems such as slightly slurred pronunciation. Her doctors describe these effects as “less than would be expected”, and say her case highlights the remarkable plasticity of the brain.

Indeed. Let’s keep the file open.

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3 Replies to “Woman of 24 found has no cerebellum in her brain?

  1. 1
    Sirius says:

    This deals quite a blow to the belief (faith) that the mind is subordinate to the brain. I am more and more inclined to think that neuroscience is the new phrenology.

  2. 2
    carlg says:

    An article in Scientific American titled Is Your Brain Really Necessary describes numerous examples of people functioning with much less brain then the instances sited.

  3. 3
    Mapou says:

    Actually, the cerebellum controls involuntary or routine/automatic motor tasks such as walking or maintaining posture. A person without a cerebellum can still do those things but they have to pay full attention to what they’re doing. In other words, they cannot walk and talk at the same time. Some patients with cerebellar lesions talk haltingly. The reason is that they found a way to rapidly switch their attention between talking and standing. They can’t do both at the same time. This has caused some researchers to conclude that the cerebellum is needed for speech. It is not.

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