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 18, 2019
Cardiology
NOV 18, 2019
New Study Sheds Lights On Fat Formation
At normal levels, white fat tissue is known as the body's energy storage unit. When this type of tissue over accumulates, it begins to disrupt several ...
NOV 18, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 18, 2019
The Great Barrier Reef is Disappearing, and Here's Why
Most people think of the Great Barrier Reef as a single, massive coral reef off the coast of Australia, but it isn’t. Instead, this beautiful underwa...
NOV 18, 2019
Cardiology
NOV 18, 2019
Find the Motivation to Exercise with Imagery
Those involved in professional sports have a lot on their plate. From fitting in intense regular workouts to getting adequate sleep, to eating a healthy di...
NOV 18, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 18, 2019
What Makes Lions Such Incredible Predators?
Lions sport a reputation as one of nature’s fiercest beasts, but have you ever wondered what makes them such renowned predators? These large cats are...
NOV 18, 2019
Health & Medicine
NOV 18, 2019
Sherlock's DNA biosensors set to make diagnostics elementary
The anxious wait to receive results from expensive diagnostic laboratory tests could soon be a thing of the past thanks to a technological breakthrough. En...
NOV 18, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 18, 2019
Cheetahs Band Together to Take Down Larger Prey
Cheetahs are impressively large cats, but they aren’t quite as large as the fabled lion. Their smaller stature means that they’re compelled to...
Loading Comments...