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Doctors in China were surprised to find that a young woman who had lived a normal life for more than two decades was actually missing an important part of her brain, according to a new report of her case.

The 24-year-old’s strange condition was discovered when she went to doctors because of a month long bout of nausea and vomiting. The patient told the doctors she had also experienced dizziness her entire life. She didn’t start walking until she was four and had never been able to walk steadily.

When the doctors scanned the woman’s brain, they found she had no cerebellum, a region of the brain thought to be crucial for walking and other movements. Instead, the scans showed a large hole filled with cerebrospinal fluid.

“CT and MRI scans revealed no remnants of any cerebellar tissues, verifying complete absence of the cerebellum,” the doctors wrote in the report, published Aug. 22 in the journal Brain.

“It shows that the young brain tends to be much more flexible or adaptable to abnormalities,” said Dr. Raj Narayan, chair of neurosurgery at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York, who wasn’t involved with the woman’s case. “When a person is either born with an abnormality or at a very young age loses a particular part of the brain, the rest of the brain tries to reconnect and to compensate for that loss or absence,” Narayan said.

This remarkable ability of the brain is thought to decline with age. “As we get older, the ability of the brain to tolerate damage is much more limited,” Narayan said. “So, for example, in a 60-year-old person, if I took the cerebellum out, they would be severely impaired.” A baby falling over its head is not same as an old man falling in the bath room hitting head first.

(ack: livescience,Sept.11)

benny

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