Do you notice anything wrong with this picture

Go on, I bet you can’t find it?

Here, have a closer look…

Give up? Well, if you do, there’s nothing to find. Rather, it’s what’s missing.

Half a brain.

This is a real MRI brain scan of a living, breathing, walking person.

It’s a miracle, you say. How are they still alive?

You might even think back to school biology. You know the guy I’m talking about. The teacher blabbered on about him one day during human biology.

Phineas Gage.

Still doesn’t ring any bells?

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Phineas gage

How about now?

Well, if you don’t, I’ll give you the scoop.

He was the foreman for a railroad company by the name of Vermont. See that enormous bar above? It’s called a tamping iron, and it was used to compact explosives tightly together for detonation. 

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As Gage struck the iron with his hammer, he triggered an explosion. Next thing you know, his fellow workers are retrieving his tamping iron. Only, it had made a detour – straight through Gage’s head.

The tamping iron was covered with blood and brain. Yet there was Gage, still standing, although, maybe a little lightheaded, a couple of hundred grams lighter. And then he died…

11 years later!

If you knew about Gage, you were probably thinking…

“Ok, that’s pretty amazing, but that’s my limit. Someone missing half their brain, though. no way.”

With half a brain, what life must they be living?

A normal one. The first image is Christina Santhous’s brain. As for what she does, she helps people to speak properly. She is a qualified speech pathologist, having completed her master’s degree.

Christina lives a normal life. Apart from being unable to use different areas of the right side of her body, she is flourishing. She can drive, bowl with friends, and her husband even said, “What are you talking about?” when she explained that she had Rasmussen’s encephalitis.

At first, he had no idea; he didn’t even notice. Christina isn’t the only one, either. Rasmussen encephalitis affects thousands of people.

The condition is life-threatening and involves uncontrollable inflammation of one side of the brain. It’s not uncommon for a person with the condition to experience hundreds of seizures daily.

Cutting the brain in half is the only permanent solution. The operation to remove the inflamed hemisphere, hemispherectomy, can take up to an entire day, and that’s 24-hour time.

If you look at the real-time brain scan below, you can see an extraordinary reality – living with half a brain.

Imagine the scan beginning at the top of your head and going down to the neck. If you still have trouble orientating yourself, you can’t miss the eyes.

As for the black space, that means there is nothing there… where half a brain should be!

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Functional MRI Scan Cross-section

Your adaptive brain

Christina’s story isn’t the only one. Many of the patients who undergo a hemispherectomy accomplish amazing things. You’ll find stories of patients who are:

  • Learning multiple languages.
  • Becoming doctors.
  • Even participating in memory competitions.

The power of your brain is amazing. Its ability to adapt and overcome challenges is phenomenal. Your brain never stops changing. We now know that neuroplasticity occurs throughout our entire life.

These people are flourishing with half a brain, while most of us with an entire brain are telling ourselves it’s too late or pointless. We might age, but we only get older when we decide to stop learning.

Published in Self Improvement, Psychology, Science, Stories
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