Can ya live without a brain?

OK, I know this has been done here before, but the search engine which was improved more than I thought possible is not able to find it.

So, with patience please, what is the condition called where instead of brain, you have water. Any thinking organ you have is in the form of a knot at the top of the brain stem. There are few/no symptoms, except for no brain.

If you all can get me the answer to this I just might be able to recruit a subscriber. - Hydrocephalus, maybe?

Its called Hydranencephaly

Sure you can. There is at least one such case. He’s from Texas :smiley:

Well, it all depends on what you consider the “brain”. There are three parts of the brain, two of which is technically optional.

The Cerebrum, the big wrinkly part that makes up most of the brain, is where you do all of your thinking, sensory processing, speaking, voluntary movement, etc. Everything that makes you “you” resides there. That said, you can and people do live with that part of the brain completely inactive or absent. They are total vegetables, but they can live.

The Cerebellum sits below the cerebrum. I believe that all of its functions are still a bit mysterious, but it processes voluntary movement, handles balance, perception of time, etc. Again, you can live without it, but you wouldn’t want to. Even if your cerebrum was intact, your quality of life would be abysmal.

And finally, the Medulla Oblongotta is almost completely encased in the Cerebellum. You CANNOT LIVE without this part of the brain. It handles all automatic functions (heart beat, breathing, etc.) and connects the spinal cord to the rest of the brain. Hydrocephalics and Anacephalics may be missing their cerbrums and even their cerebellums and clincally live, but if they don’t have the medulla oblongotta, they’re dead.

Of course, with modern life support they can keep people alive without a head, but I don’t think that’s what you had in mind.

I dunno. Why don’t you ask Mike the Headless Chicken?

Now you’re just being silly bughunter. How is he going to answer us without a beak? :slight_smile:

Hey, I’m pretty familar with that life support stuff, and I haven’t seen a machine that can keep a heart beating, kidneys functioning, muscle tonus and all those other little things we do to not smell like worm food.

Even anacephaly is self limiting. Without cerebral function, the rest of the central nervous system atrophies. This is true in congenital, as well as injury and illness that have caused dramatic brain dysfunction. I’m talking about unrecoverable injury.
I know, Karen Quinlan lived for 10 years in a chronic vegetative state, but her brain did atrophy over that 10 years.
BTW, its Cerebrum and medulla oblongata, the plural of cerebrum is cerebra and the plural of cerebellum is cerebella. That’s easy to forget, since we usually only get one of each :slight_smile:
The cerebellum is well studied. Its most basic function is to hold your place in space. Its tells you when you’re upside down. It also sends the signals to the muscles to maintain tonus, which is the slight tension in all muscles. Its not as smart as the crebrum, but its smarter than the brain stem. Without our cerebella we would flop around like the inhabitants of the boneless chicken farm.

There’s a very famous case of a young man who appeared to have only a very thin layer of brain tissue (something like 1cm thick) lining the inside of his skull, with an enormous fluid-filled cavity in the middle, and yet he was reasonably normal, even actually quite bright. It has been said though, that perhaps the imaging process was flawed and that what appeared to be just water sloshing about in there was actually just slightly abnormal brain tissue that didn’t image very well.

"Can you live without a brain?

Hell, you can sign onto an Internet message board without one!"

– a highly frustrated (free membership) board administrator, just after dealing with a troll invasion :slight_smile:

Dog80 This is GQ.
While we allow humor, we try to keep politics out of this fora.

'Nuff said.


samclem Moderator, GQ

Me and the scarecrow been doing it for years. :smiley:

This sounds like what I was remembering! Dammitol, there was a GQ thread about it a while back that was rich with links & cites and 8x10 color glossy photographs with circles and arrows on the back of each one explaining what each one was, but I can’t find it! Hell, it may have been about ME!

That sounds like some kind of medicine for nasal congestion.

No, cranial congestion.

Or the special formula for rectal congestion, when there appears to be a head rammed up it. :slight_smile:

I seriously doubt the imaging was flawed.

I’ve read somewhere (can’t find a cite at the moment though, sorry) that quite a few of these folks are reasonably bright and seem perfectly normal. Often the defect is only found during autopsy. How well their brains function varies quite a bit. On the low end of the scale, folks with this disease have severe impairments, like being unable to even speak, but on the high end of the scale they are above average in brain function. I believe their IQs tend to peak at about 130, which is surprisingly high considering that most of their skull is filled with nothing but liquid.

The doctor in question was John Lorbor, who was a neurology professor at the University of Sheffield in England; he died in 1996. Here’s a Guardian article that references this study – one of the few “legit” references I found through a few searches. (Most of the others come from websites in the “ain’t life bizarre?”/“Believe It … or Not!” oevre.)

Most of the time, the websites refer to a pair of articles in Science and Science Digest magazines from 1980. FWIW, in a list of Lorbor’s published works from Indiana University, there’s no mention of either article. (Not that this means anything, since the lists may not be all-inclusive. I’m not sure if the person who compiled it included non-medical journals.)

Anyway, if the story’s true, and considering this was twenty years ago, the imaging may well have not been as sophisticated as it is now.

Sorry! :o