Sometimes Half A Brain Is Better Than The Whole Thing

Did you know that doctors have performed operations to remove half of a person’s brain for hundreds of times? The process is called hemispherectomy. The procedure is used as a last resort, and when alternative treatments are deemed to be unfeasible for the patient. From the SciAm article:

Neurosurgeons have performed the operation on children as young as three months old. Astonishingly, memory and personality develop normally. A recent study found that 86 percent of the 111 children who underwent hemispherectomy at Hopkins between 1975 and 2001 are either seizure-free or have nondisabling seizures that do not require medication. The patients who still suffer seizures usually have congenital defects or developmental abnormalities, where brain damage is often not confined to just one hemisphere, Freeman explains.

Another study found that children that underwent hemispherectomies often improved academically once their seizures stopped. “One was champion bowler of her class, one was chess champion of his state, and others are in college doing very nicely,” Freeman says.

Of course, the operation has its downside: “You can walk, run—some dance or skip—but you lose use of the hand opposite of the hemisphere that was removed. You have little function in that arm and vision on that side is lost,” Freeman says.

I’d love to hear what HTNet‘s readers have to say about this; especially Dr. Kucau 🙂

6 responses to “Sometimes Half A Brain Is Better Than The Whole Thing”.

  1. Dabido Says:

    I remember seeing a TV show where there were peopel who were losing parts of their brains [like a guy who’d had a tumour eat the inside of his brain], and as long as they are young enough and there is brain tissue left they develop quite normally. They showed the CAT scan of the guy who’d had the tumour and his brain is like a centimetre around the inside of his skull and that’s all. The middle part is all black vaccuum.

    It reminds me of the joke when they had to remove half an English spies brain so he could go Spy on the Americans. They accidentally removed three quarters of hsi brain. When the doctors told him what had happened he said, ‘No worries matey, just give me a beer and a pair of thongs and I’ll go spy on the Aussies!’

    [Yes, it is an old joke told by the English to put down Australians … but don’t worry, when we catch the English who tell it, we beat them to death with our thongs and steal their women!] 😉

  2. kucau Says:

    ermm this kind of operation is reserved for special cases. anyway i think whole brain is definitely better than half. u see, 101 things can go wrong with hemispherectomies . evetho if half of brain is much better, i wont subject myself to the procedure. having said that,now u can even see living anenchephaly laughing in our parliment. thehehe

  3. cindy Says:

    At least we can use the word: “Why so stupid wan.. want me to donate half my brain to you issit?!” 😛

  4. Palmdoc Says:

    Studies on our local politicians have shown that one can function with no brain at all.

  5. Site Admin Azmeen Says:


    If I dissected your statement properly, does this imply that Malaysian politicians have the mental capabilities of a baby under the age of three months?


  6. cindy Says:

    Palmdoc: LOL!! I almost spilled my tea! 🙁