[ExI] no brain, no pain

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Fri Jul 20 22:58:45 UTC 2007

WASHINGTON: A man with an unusually tiny brain managed to live an 
entirely normal life despite his condition, caused by a fluid 
build-up in his skull, French researchers reported yesterday.

Scans of the 44-year-old man's brain showed that a huge fluid-filled 
chamber called a ventricle took up most of the room in his skull, 
leaving little more than a thin sheet of actual brain tissue.

"He was a married father of two children, and worked as a civil 
servant," Lionel Feuillet and colleagues at the Universite de la 
Mediterranee in Marseille wrote in a letter to the Lancet medical 
journal. The man went to a hospital after he had mild weakness in his 
left leg.

When Dr Feuillet's staff took his medical history, they learned he 
had had a shunt inserted into his head to drain away hydrocephalus -- 
water on the brain -- as an infant. The shunt was removed when he was 14.

So the researchers did brain scans and were astonished to see 
"massive enlargement" of the lateral ventricles -- usually tiny 
chambers that hold the cerebrospinal fluid that cushions the brain. 
Intelligence tests showed the man had an IQ of 75, below the average 
score of 100 but not considered mentally retarded or disabled.

"What I find amazing ... is how the brain can deal with something 
which you think should not be compatible with life," said Max Muenke, 
a pediatric brain defect specialist.

"If something happens very slowly over quite some time, maybe over 
decades, the different parts of the brain take up functions that 
would normally be done by the part that is pushed to the side," said 
Dr Muenke, who was not involved in the case.


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