The brain is a paradoxical organ; we know so much about it yet still understand very little. We can identify the general functions associated with a region but still the brain remains a mystery. Trying to understand the complexity of brain functions and its amazing abilities can be a humbling experience.
In 2009 an unfortunate bicycle accident led me to experience another paradox; how the brain can be both fragile and resilient at the same time. I suffered from an Epidural Hematoma, essentially a blood clot on the outside of the outermost membrane of the brain, resulting in what is called a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The epidural hematoma was caused by a skull fracture and removed by performing an Emergency Craniotomy. This involved removing a section of skull just above the left frontal lobe, 'evacuating the hematoma', and replacing the bone with six titanium reinforcements.
The regions of my brain directly affected by the blunt impact and surgery were the left frontal and temporal lobe. The frontal lobe is associated with motor function, language, and executive functional and houses Broca's Area, a region vital for speech formation. The temporal lobe is related to hearing and overlaps with the frontal lobe on responsibilities of memory functions and language. Before I woke up from the procedure the outcome was a mystery. Brain injuries can manifest in a variety of ways and my parents were told to prepare for anything. When I did wake up, the outcome was a miracle.
After rehabilitative therapy, the residual effects range from balance problems to recollection of nonexistent memories. At times it is difficult to really know what to attribute to the brain injury (i.e. forgetting my keys daily), but overall the effects are minimal. According to the neurosurgeon, in his twenty years of work my cognitive bounce back was most surprising considering the damage and bleeding he saw. He said that my quick and strong recover most likely due to my age and good state of health. Could this have been neural plasticity working miracles?