In a famous paper in the early 1980’s the pediatrician John Lorber asked “Is Your Brain Really Necessary?” He examines hydrocephalics who – despite losing over 95% of the volume of their brain – continue to function in the everyday world and often have IQs over 100. (Hydrocephalics experience a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain.)
I first learned about this paper from my neurolinguistics teacher Suzie Curtiss. Suzie was studying epileptic children who had a whole hemisphere of their brain removed but went on to live normal lives. These cases raise wonderful questions about the nature of intelligence and the incredible ability of the brain to adapt (“plasticity”) to serious injuries or novel environments.
This is the first post of its type…. famous papers which turned a field upside down or challenged conventional wisdom. Note that I’ve linked to a Science magazine article about Lorber, rather than his original academic paper, since I couldn’t find the original online.