Who Needs A Brain? – 1

Is your brain really necessary?

This is the title of a famous paper published in the journal Science by Roger Lewin, concerning the research of the late Dr. John Lorber, professor of neurology at the university of Sheffield, UK.

[Roger Lewin (December 12, 1980). “Is Your Brain Really Necessary?” SCIENCE 210 (4475): 1232–1234. doi:10.1126/science.7434023. PMID 7434023]

When Sheffield’s campus doctor was treating one of the mathematics students for a minor ailment, he noticed that the student’s head was a little larger than normal. The doctor referred the student to professor Lorber for further examination.

The student in question was academically bright, had a reported IQ of 126 and was expected to graduate. When he was examined by CAT-scan, however, Lorber discovered that he had virtually no brain at all. The student had less than 1 millimetre of cerebral tissue lining the skull, a condition called hydrocephalus, in which the cerebrospinal fluid pressurizes and destroys the brain.

Despite no brain, this Sheffield student had lived a perfectly normal life and went on to gain an honors degree in mathematics. His case is by no means as rare as you might think. Continue reading

Using Your Brain Hard Boosts Its Physical Size and Function

There is no doubt whatsoever in today’s science results that we can BUILD our brains. That’s why children grow up: we make them learn, expand and use their brains.

24 college students or recent graduates studying for law exams (pretty tough) were monitored with brain images, similar to MRI scans, to measure changes in brain volume and function. The study leader was Allyson Mackey, a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.

When used, brains grow. Pathways are strengthened. When used hard, they grow even more.

And IQ can be increased. This applies in adults, as well as developing children.

The old idea you are smart or not smart is fast becoming medieval, with burgeoning evidence to the contrary.

But there is a paradox here…

People with little or no brains, can still think and function normally. For example hydrocephalus cases, with as little as 10% residual brain tissue or even less, still think as usual; you couldn’t tell the difference. So far as I know, no-one has tried the brain plasticity enhancement technique with hydrocephalics… That would be interesting!

The study was published recently in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, August 22nd, 2012, and UC Berkeley issued a news release.

Also posted at Food For The Mind and Fire For The Soul