July 31, 2018
Case Study: Child’s Lobectomy Reveals Brain’s Ability To Reorganize Its Visual System
After Three Years, Patient Recognizes Faces Normally, Despite the Removal of the Preeminent Regions Involved in Facial Recognition
By Shilo Rea
A new study led by Carnegie Mellon University neuroscientists provides the first evidence of how the human brain recovers the ability to function after losing parts of the visual system.
Published in Cell Reports, the researchers report on three years of behavioral and brain imaging tests on a nearly 7-year-old boy — “UD” — who had a third of the right hemisphere of his brain removed in an attempt to control seizures. Even though the procedure left UD unable to see the left side, the team found that his brain’s left hemisphere eventually compensated for visual tasks such as recognizing faces and objects.
“These findings provide a detailed characterization of the visual system’s plasticity during children’s brain development,” said Marlene Behrmann, the Cowan University Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition. “They also shed light on the visual system of the cortex and can potentially help neurologists and neurosurgeons understand the kind of changes that are possible in the brain.”