MAR 06, 2016 09:08 AM PST

How Much of the Brain Can You Live Without?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Calling someone a half-brain or describing a person as thinking with half a brain is often as an insult. But the brain is a resilient organ - there are many cases of people with congenital brain defects or traumatic brain injuries who can still survive even though their whole brain isn't intact.

Some people do actually live with half a brain, as a result of a hemispherectomy - surgical removal of half the brain done to control severe cases of seizures. Some other extreme cases include hydranencephaly, where the entire cerebral portion is missing and all that's present is the brainstem. Moreover, there are nine documented cases of people living without a cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls voluntary movement.

The brain's ability to rewire itself is remarkable. It seems the one piece that isn't dispensable is the brain stem, which controls the heart, lungs, and blood pressure. But although missing certain parts of the brain may be compatible with life, cognition, movement, personalities, and memories can be affected. So it's always advisable to keep our brains whole.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 05, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 05, 2018
The Mystery Behind Oumuamua Continues...
Last year, Oumuamua became the first-known interstellar object to be identified by astronomers as it passed through our solar system. At first, astronomers...
NOV 07, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 07, 2018
Why Are Fruit Flies Attracted to Rotting Fruit Smell?
Fruit flies are the staple pests in the kitchen during summer. As much as these unwelcomed guests enjoy sucking up sugary juice, they are actually more att...
NOV 19, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 19, 2018
Kepler Scientists Reflect on the Now Retired Mission
NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope recently ran out of fuel, preventing it from aligning its antenna toward Earth and maintaining communication. NASA knew...
NOV 22, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 22, 2018
The Hottest Spice That You Probably Don't Want to Savor
Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 1 cation channel, or TRPV1, plays an important role in the human body in sensing heat and pain.  Coincidentally...
NOV 25, 2018
Earth & The Environment
NOV 25, 2018
What Would Happen if An Asteroid Slammed Into One of Earth's Oceans?
Have you ever wondered what would happen if an asteroid plopped right into one of Earth’s oceans? Curious researchers wanted to know too, and so they...
DEC 03, 2018
Health & Medicine
DEC 03, 2018
Why Do Some Men Have Trouble Growing Beards?
There are two types of men in this world: those that can grow robust beards, and those that can’t. But why is it that some men get stuck with patchy,...
Loading Comments...