After 20 years of struggling from dizziness and nausea and inability to walk steadily, a 24-year-old female patient in China’s Shandong Provice finally checked into the Hospital, and her diagnosis took doctors by surprise! She had been missing a big part of her brain, specifically, the cerebellum. Cerebellum (Latin for “little brain”) is a part of the brain at the back of the skull in vertibrates. Its function is to coordinate and regulate muscular activity.
photo credit: The Washington Post / www.washingtonpost.com
According to the patient’s mother, she was 4 years old before she could even stand unassisted and began to walk by herself at the age of 7, with a persistently unsteady gait. She even never ran or jumped and had always a hard time in maintining her balance, not so surprising since the cerebellum is important for motor control. Her speech is not intelligable until 6 years of age and did not enter school — scientists proved that the cerebellum plays a part in language development.
On the other hand, her condition has given scientists a great help in understing more about neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to adapt itself to changes in behavior, environment, or the body. This is only the ninth time that doctors have found someone to be missing a whole cerebellum, and most of the others have only been discovered after their early deaths. So essentially, it took less than a decade of life for the rest of her brain to pick up the missing cerebellum’s slack. The fact that the patient is alive and thriving is incredible.