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Is the brain really necessary?








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                                 October 30, 1993

                                    BRAIN3.ASC
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                        Is the Brain Really Necessary?
                     (Or What and Where Is Consciousness)

       This was the  question asked by British neurologist John Lorber when
       he addressed a  conference  of  pediatricians   in   1980.   Such  a
       frivolous sounding question was sparked by case studies  Lorber  had
       been involved in since the mid sixties.

       The case studies   involve   victims   of   an   ailment   known  as
       hydrocephalus, more commonly known  as  water  on  the  brain.   The
       condition results from  an abnormal build up of cerebrospinal  fluid
       and can cause severe retardation and death if not treated.

       Two young children  with  hydrocephalus referred to Lorber presented
       with normal mental development for  their  age.   In  both children,
       there was no  evidence of a cerebral cortex.  One  of  the  children
       died at age  three  months,  the  second  at twelve months was still
       following a normal development profile  with  the  exception  of the
       apparent lack of cerebral tissue shown by repeated  medical testing.
       An account of  the  children was published in Developmental Medicine
       and Child Neurology.

       Later, a colleague at Sheffield University  became  aware of a young
       man with a larger than normal head. He was referred  to  Lorber even
       though it had  not  caused him any difficulty.  Although the boy had
       an IQ of 126 and had a first class  honors degree in mathematics, he
       had "virtually no brain".

       A noninvasive measurement of radio density known as  CAT scan showed
       the boy's skull  was  lined  with  a  thin layer of brain cells to a
       millimeter in thickness. The rest  of  his  skull  was  filled  with
       cerebrospinal fluid. The young man continues a normal  life with the
       exception of his knowledge that he has no brain.

       Although anecdotal accounts  may  be  found  in  medical literature,
       Lorber is the first to provide a systematic study of such cases.  He
       has documented over 600 scans of people  with  hydrocephalus and has
       broken them into four groups:

               those with nearly normal brains.
               those with 50-70% of the cranium filled with CSF
               those with 70-90% of the cranium filled with CSF
               and the  most  severe group with 95% of the  cranial  cavity
               filled with cerebrospinal fluid.

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       Of the last  group,  which  comprised  less  than ten percent of the
       study, half were profoundly retarded. The remaining half had IQs
       greater than 100.

       Skeptics have claimed that it was  an error of interpretation of the
       scans themselves. Lorber himself admits that reading  a CAT scan can
       be tricky. He  also  has  said  that one would not make such a claim
       without evidence.

       In answer to attacks that he has not precisely quantified the amount
       of brain tissue  missing,  he  adds,   "I   can't  say  whether  the
       mathematics student has a brain weighing 50 grams or  150 grams, but
       it is clear that it is nowhere near the normal 1.5 kilograms."

       Many neurologists feel   that  this  is  a  tribute  to  the  brains
       redundancy and it's ability to reassign functions.  Others, however,
       are not so sure. Patrick Wall, professor  of  anatomy  at University
       College, London states "To talk of redundancy is  a  copout  to  get
       around something you don't understand."

       Norman Geschwind, a  neurologist  at  Bostons  Beth  Israel Hospital
       agrees: "Certainly the  brain  has   a   remarkable   capacity   for
       reassigning functions following trauma, but you can  usually pick up
       some kind of  deficit  with  the  right tests, even after apparently
       full recovery."

           Anthony Smith "The Mind" New York
           Viking Press, 1984, p.230

           Roger Lewin "Is Your Brain Really Necessary?"
           Science 210 December 1980, p. 1232
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         If you have comments or other information  relating to such topics
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              Thank you for your consideration, interest and support.

           Jerry W. Decker.........Ron Barker...........Chuck Henderson
                             Vangard Sciences/KeelyNet

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