Greta and I have been back from Europe for about 36 hours now, and we’re slowly adapting to life back in the US. Sure, the olive oil’s not as good, and wine costs a fortune, but amazingly we’re finding that we’re able to accommodate to these problems, as well as the 7-hour time shift from Athens to Charlotte.
I suppose that shouldn’t come as a surprise to us — after all, the human brain is a remarkably adaptable organ. As many, many blogs have observed, a 44-year-old man, married with kids and holding a steady job, was found to have practically no brain matter in his skull:
Corpus Callosum describes how this could have happened:
As a child, he had been told he had hydrocephalus. A shunt was placed to drain the fluid. He was doing fine, and at age 14 the shunt was removed. That would have been around 1973, so CAT scans and MRIs would not have been available.
Over the years, it appears, fluid gradually reentered the brain, but slowly enough that the remaining brain cells could adapt. It was only when he visited the doctor 30 years later, complaining of weakness in his leg, that a modern brain scan was conducted, with the astonishing results we see today.
Another study has received less notice in the blogosphere, but describes a similar phenomenon:
Cochlear implants–electronic devices inserted surgically in the ear to allow deaf people to hear–may restore normal auditory pathways in the brain even after many years of deafness.
The results imply that the brain can reorganize sound processing centers or press into service latent ones based on sound stimulation.
“The results imply a restoration to some extent of the normal organization through the use of the cochlear implant,” says Manuel Don, PhD, of the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles. “They also claim to find ties between the degree of restored organization and a hearing task. Such ties are of enormous importance in evaluating cochlear implant benefits.”
Just 8 months after receiving cochlear implants, profoundly deaf adults formed auditory processing abilities that nearly matched non-deaf individuals.
The brain truly is a remarkable thing!