As I write this blog post, nearly every part of my brain is at work. All of the lobes, cortexes, nerves, and systems within my brain are fully responsible for my ability to see the words I'm typing, to type the words I'm thinking, and to think about what words I'll type next. All parts are also responsible for my heavy breathing as I worry about the upcoming exam, my occasional distractions from my roommate, and my hunger that I'm reminded of with every stomach murmur.
The countless functions of the brain truly astound me. In particular, I am amazed by plasticity: our brain's ability to change and reinvent itself after injury. How is this possible? In order to answer this burning question, I researched a Hemispherectomy.
A Hemispherectomy is a rare surgery in which an entire hemisphere (half) of the brain is removed. In only extreme cases, the surgery is performed to eliminate severe seizures that no medicine or other procedure is able to fix.
There is no way this practice would take place if it weren't for plasticity. In all successful cases of a Hemispherectomy, the remaining hemisphere changes and remolds itself to take on many roles from both sides of the body. Typically, our right hemisphere controls the left side of our body and the left hemisphere controls our right. With just one hemisphere intact after a Hemispherectomy, plasticity works to control both sides of the body and take over tasks to improve motor control and generic abilities.
The plasticity of the brain decreases as we age, so most successful surgeries take place in early childhood. In some rare cases, adolescents receive the procedure and are able to function normally. However, it is much harder for one hemisphere to assume the tasks of the other as the body ages.
Our brain has so many amazing abilities, especially plasticity. The idea that our brain can change and reform itself when necessary is simply amazing to me. As I see the words I'm typing, type the words I'm thinking, and think of which words to use next, my brain is changing. This is all due to plasticity - the brain's ability to change. Although I will never fully understand plasticity, the principle is shocking to me.