Is the Brain Really Necessary?

Is the Brain Really Necessary
Is the Brain Really Necessary

“If we’re interested in what’s true rather than what just feels good, we will demand very high standards of evidence.” — Carl Sagan
“We are not here concerned with hopes or fears, only with the truth as far as our reason permits us to discover it.” — Charles Darwin

Let’s face it.
It’s a big world out there, and it’s full of many things that science can’t explain; if it wasn’t, then science would be out of a job. Science, after all, arose out of the need to explain the unexplained. But let’s face this also; the vast majority of events porno and occurrences that popular press and media claim are scientifically unexplainable, are not… unexplainable, that is.
Matters are confused by researchers and investigators grouping these strange stories into broad catagories — UFOs, ESP, ghosts, etc. — in an attempt to understand them. More confusion is caused when the same researchers and investigators make the mistake of putting forward inventive and far-reaching theories to try to explain some particular grouping of these stories that are believed (but not proven) to be related; and often these theorists make the further error of “explaining” the unexplained with the unexplained… asserting that ghosts can be explained as a form of telepathy does nothing to clear up either subject.
The reason it is a mistake in most cases to put forward these theories is the same reason most scientists avoid studying these strange stories, a reason given above… most of the stories being theorized about are not true, a simple fact that brings any theory based on these stories into definite question. Before useful theories can be put forward to explain the unexplained, we must know what occurrences really are unexplained. Some things happened; some things didn’t… and investigators need to know which is which.
This may sound a bit simplistic, but no one is seriously attempting to sort these stories out as far as I can tell. Believers take many stories on faith; sensationalists have no good reason to ask if a story making them money is true or not; and skeptics will often bend facts to make everything look perfectly explainable… even if it’s not. It’s the rare few who will simply examine all the facts around a story objectively with no pre-chosen opinion they want to prove.
And that’s why I started ANOMALIES. With each article I create, I slowly gather all information I can find on each event or topic and put it all together in one place, starting with the popular version of the stories found in mass media and working back to the original sources of the accounts, including even the contradictory information. It’s my hope that this approach will allow you — the reader — the ability to make an informed decision about what you choose to believe about any particular event. Articles are updated whenever I have new information and time, and new articles are added as often as possible; and, always, readers are encouraged to help out by suggesting new sources for expanding existing articles.

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: and the most severe group with 95% of the cranial cavity filled with cerebrospinal fluid. 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.”