Man with a small brain shows that size isn't everything!
Published on July 22, 2007 at 7:32 AM
French doctors have discovered a man who led a normal life yet his brain was considerably smaller than normal.
It seems as a result of hydrocephalus as a baby, the 44 year old man unknowingly had an excess of fluid in his brain but lived a normal life, is a married father of two with a government job.
The man went to a hospital in Marseille, France, because his left leg had been weak for two weeks and doctors learned he had had hydrocephaly as a baby which is the abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain.
Apparently when he was 6 months old, doctors inserted a shunt to drain away the excess fluid but when he reached age 14, he had leg and balance problems which were resolved when doctors revised his brain shunt.
However when the 44-year-old man's brain was scanned, it showed that a huge fluid-filled chamber took up most of his skull leaving room for only a thin sheet of actual brain tissue.
The scans revealed a "massive enlargement" of the lateral ventricles - chambers which are usually small in size, that hold the fluid that acts as a cushion for the brain; the revelation shocked the doctors.
Dr. Lionel Feuillet, MD, of the neurology department at Marseille's Université de la Mediterranée says apart from that the man's medical history was otherwise normal despite having an unusually small brain and low IQ scores due to the hydrocephaly.
The 44-year-old man's leg problems were again resolved by inserting a brain shunt but that did not alter either his brain size or his IQ scores.
His doctors say though the man is not a typical hydrocephaly patient their report shows that high-tech brain scans and IQ tests do not always tell the full story, and that an "average" life may actually be astounding.
Experts say it shows how amazing the brain is in that it can deal with something which is not considered to be compatible with life and they suggest that when something happens very slowly over a period of time, different parts of the brain assume functions that would normally be done by the part that is pushed to the side.