General, Research, Technology

The brain continues to work normally after removing one of the hemispheres

We launch robots into space, edit the genomein laboratories, we treat diseases that claimed the millions of lives of our ancestors, but we still know very little about the very organ that makes us who we are - about the brain. Billions of neurons every second shape our perception of reality and ourselves. It is known that the brain makes decisions in a split second and processes a huge amount of information. This amazing organ is fraught with the whole universe, which we have yet to discover. So, the work of researchers, which was published in the journal Cell Reports, indicates the incredible ability of the brain to adapt and change.

It turns out that the brain is able to compensate for missing areas

Do you think the brain will be able to normallyfunction if one of the hemispheres is removed? It sounds rather dubious, given the fact that some brain injuries lead to serious disorders. Thus, damage to the Broca area or the Wernicke region - the area of ​​the brain that is responsible for speech and its perception, can lead to loss of ability to speak or perceive speech. However, in the course of the study, scientists performed an MRI scan of the cross section of the brain of adult patients. The subjects were a small group of people who underwent hemispherectomy - a surgical procedure in which half of the brain is removed in childhood. The results showed that, despite the absence of the entire half of this organ critical to life, the subjects could absolutely function normally, since the remaining half of their brain was strengthened, the authors say. According to experts, this wrinkled and mysterious organ has an almost magical ability to change and adapt.

What is neuroplasticity?

Surely you have heard more than once that the brain is very"Plastic". This means that it can constantly form new connections between brain cells - neurons. Each person is born with a huge number of neurons, but they are not interconnected. As we learn new skills, neural connections begin to form. And the more we learn, for example, to play the guitar, the stronger the neural connections in the areas of the brain responsible for musical skill. One of the best ways to understand neuroplasticity is to examine patients who have removed parts of the brain. For a new study, a team of scientists from the California Institute of Technology analyzed the brain of six adults aged 20 to 30 years. Each subject underwent hemispherectomy at the age of 3 months to 11 years. This operation is performed to reduce epileptic seizures.

One Hemisphere MRI Scan

The authors also analyzed the brain of six people.with two hemispheres. All participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Scientists have deliberately studied areas of the brain that are associated with performing everyday functions such as vision, movement, emotions, and cognition. They then compared brain scans with 1,500 brain images published in a database called the Brain Genomics Superstruct Project. The resulting MRI scans are sections of the brain (from the top of the brain to the bottom) of people who had the hemisphere removed when they were younger.

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The team found that among patients with onlyin one hemisphere of the brain, neural activity was no different from the brain activity of subjects with two hemispheres. Moreover, the authors found that neural connections in subjects with one hemisphere are actually stronger than in subjects with two. Thus, it seems that the brain is able to compensate for the loss of its structure, the authors believe. Many of the subjects who underwent a major operation as a child were highly functioning, with intact language skills.

This is an MRI of the brain (from the top of the brain to the bottom) of people who had the hemisphere removed in childhood

Amazing brain abilities

However, this is not the first surprising case. The literature describes many other cases about the ability of the brain to adapt in unexpected situations. So, in one boy, a third of the right hemisphere was removed, including the part of the brain responsible for vision. But a few years after the operation, neuroscientists found that the left side of his brain began to perform visual functions of the missing left side, and he still sees everything perfectly, according to Live Science. Another study published in the journal Neron focuses on a small group of women who can smell, despite the lack of olfactory bulbs and the area in the front of the brain that processes odor information. Although it remains a mystery how exactly this happens, it is unclear, the researchers believe that perhaps another part of the brain took on the task of processing odors.

The authors of the new study hope that they canbetter understand how the brain reorganizes itself after an injury or stroke and how certain areas of the brain compensate for lost or damaged ones. Perhaps, ultimately, thanks to this work, scientists will be able to help a large number of people suffering from the effects of injuries and various diseases of the brain.