One-Sixth of His Brain Was Removed, Boy Still Developed Normally
The 12-year-old’s brain learned to adapt after a part largely responsible for visual processing was taken out.
In a medical marvel, a 12-year-old boy has grown up “perfectly normally” after one-sixth of his brain was surgically removed when he was six. Tanner Collins’ doctors had taken the decision to cut out a region of his brain to get rid of a tumour and stop his seizures.
It was the best option they had, but extremely risky as well. Apart from the worry of whether he’ll be able to lead a normal life, Tanner’s parents and doctors wondered if he’ll be able to recognise them or anyone around him. The region of his brain that was removed – the right occipital and posterior temporal lobes – is important for facial recognition.
Tanner's case was published in the scientific journal Cell Reports, explaining how the 12-year-old's brain learned to adapt after a part largely responsible for visual processing was taken out.
His brain has had to work to adapt and there has been some visual impairment, but he’s had no major problems and has retained his ability to recognise faces.
The Washington Post quoted Tanner as saying:
As far as I’m concerned, I’m a perfectly normal 12-year-old boy.
The boy's intellect, visual perception and object recognition skills have all remained age-appropriate, even with a large portion of his brain gone.
He has, however, permanently lost part of his vision and has a large blind spot within his left visual field. Otherwise he has great vision. He can compensate by moving his eyes to stitch images together but because of that issue, he will not be able to drive when he reaches adulthood.
But according to the family and the doctors, that was a small price to pay because if they hadn’t done that surgery on the six-year-old, the seizures could harm brain development and potentially threaten of the life of the boy.
Marlene Behrmann, a cognitive neuroscientist and lead author of the paper, explained that after the brain lost the region in the right hemisphere which works on facial recognition, it adapted and found a solution. The part of the brain that assists with visual processing in the left hemisphere took on the task.
CBS News quoted her as saying:
In a child’s brain, there is the potential for this kind of reorganisation and recovery. A child’s brain is still undergoing dynamic change. It can find these novel solutions. And this case exemplified that.
Tanner’s case illustrates the plasticity of a developing brain. It took the boy months to recover from the surgery but it turned out to be a positive development.
The Washington Post reports that the 12-year-old does well in school, enjoys swimming, volleyball, tennis and chess, but is not allowed to play contact sports.
He knows what he wants to be when he grows up – “a neurosurgeon,” Tanner announces proudly.
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