• Question: Could you live and cope with half a brain

    Asked by mariam19 to David, James, Mike, Suze, Will on 21 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: James Marrow

      James Marrow answered on 21 Jun 2011:

      Yes, you can, although I think it depends on which bits we lose and keep! We don’t need all of our brain, but there are some bits that do affect our personality and this can change if the brain is damaged. Radical brain surgery was (and is) sometimes used to cause mental problems.

      Have you seen this news story?

    • Photo: William Eborall

      William Eborall answered on 21 Jun 2011:

      That story is incredible James, I saw that back in 2007 when the surgery was carried out.

      Like James says it depends on which bits of the brain we lose. A long time ago before things like brain scans were available there was a project to try and find out what bits of the brain did.

      The project looked at the brains of stroke victims after they had died. A stroke is when part of your brain dies because it doesn’t get enough blood. To find out what parts of the brain did the doctors found out what a stroke patient had lost the ability to do (e.g. move their right arm, or blink) and then after the person had died they looked to see which part of their brain was missing from the stroke.

      This was crude but it began the mapping of the brain 🙂

    • Photo: Mike Dodd

      Mike Dodd answered on 21 Jun 2011:

      This was an amazing story that I heard and read about:
      This man seems to have lost a large part of the inside of his brain. This was confirmed using MRI, and it showed that you could live an average life, with half a brain

    • Photo: Suze Kundu

      Suze Kundu answered on 21 Jun 2011:

      Hello again Mariam19! I finally got that answer to you in that live chat earlier, but it was so busy! You guys all had great questions 🙂

      OK, so I promise that it’s not just because I’m at the BBC at the moment, BUT there was a programme called Inside The Human Body, where this beautiful, adorable little girl had problems with the blood vessels on one side of her brain that caused her to lose responsiveness for moments during the day. She was only tiny, really young, and I think her name was Angelina.

      To fix the problem, surgeons had to detach one side of her brain from the other, I guess to stop it from short-circuiting and causing these blackouts. They have photos of her (and others from the series) up in the BBC Science department, and I walk past her beautiful face every day, and I asked the guys that worked on the programe whether they had heard back from her at all. One of them heard back a month ago, and she’s doing brilliantly!

      If you get a chance, I’d definitely look it up, as it was a great programme, only four eposides, but each one was just amazing in its own way. I also have a total geek-crush on Michael Mosley, the guy that presents the show. He’s so clever, and manly! (Awful when I see him in the department… I have to look away, or walk in the other direction…!).

      Boys, I love that we’ve all come up with our own anecdote! I think that is a resounding YES to Mariam’s question, backed up by evidence. Good work Team EnGen!