Science Information

Is Your Brain Really Necessary?


The reason for the apparently absurd question in the title is the remarkable research conducted at the University of Sheffield by neurology professor the late Dr. John Lorber.

When Sheffield's campus doctor was treating one of the mathematics students for a minor ailment, he noticed that the student's head was a little larger than normal. The doctor referred the student to professor Lorber for further examination.

The student in question was academically bright, had a reported IQ of 126 and was expected to graduate. When he was examined by CAT-scan, however, Lorber discovered that he had virtually no brain at all.

Instead of two hemispheres filling the cranial cavity, some 4.5 centimetres deep, the student had less than 1 millimetre of cerebral tissue covering the top of his spinal column. The student was suffering from hydrocephalus, the condition in which the cerebrospinal fluid, instead of circulating around the brain and entering the bloodstream, becomes dammed up inside.

Normally, the condition is fatal in the first months of childhood. Even where an individual survives he or she is usually seriously handicapped. Somehow, though, the Sheffield student had lived a perfectly normal life and went on to gain an honours degree in mathematics.

Professor Lorber (who was a member of the committee sitting to decide who should be awarded the Nobel Prize) identified several hundred people who have very small cerebral hemispheres but who appear to be normal intelligent individuals. Some of them he describes as having 'no detectable brain', yet they have scored up to 120 on IQ tests.

No-one knows how people with 'no detectable brain' are able to function at all, let alone to graduate in mathematics, but there are a couple theories. One idea is that there is such a high level of redundancy of function in the normal brain that what little remains is able to learn to deputise for the missing hemispheres.

Another, similar, suggestion is the old idea that we only use a small percentage of our brains anyway - perhaps as little as 10 per cent. The trouble with these ideas is that more recent research seems to contradict them. The functions of the brain have been mapped comprehensively and although there is some redundancy there is also a high degree of specialisation - the motor area and the visual cortex being highly specific for instance. Similarly, the idea that we 'only use 10 per cent of our brain' is a misunderstanding dating from research in the 1930s in which the functions of large areas of the cortex could not be determined and were dubbed 'silent', when in fact they are linked with important functions like speech and abstract thinking.

The other interesting thing about Lorber's findings is that they remind us of the mystery of memory. At first it was thought that memory would have some physical substrate in the brain, like the memory chips in a PC. But extensive investigation of the brain has turned up the surprising fact that memory is not located in any one area or in a specific substrate. As one eminent neurologist put it, 'memory is everywhere in the brain and nowhere.' But if the brain is not a mechanism for classifying and storing experiences and analysing them to enable us to live our lives then what on earth is the brain for? And where is the seat of human intelligence? Where is the mind?

Lorber's discovery is far from isolated. In researching my book 'Alternative Science' I found literally scores of such cases of scientific discoveries that are well-attested with strong direct laboratory evidence, and yet are ignored by conventional science. Many more such examples are also given on the Alternative Science Website.

Copyright Richard Milton 1994-2005

Richard Milton is a writer, journalist and broadcaster and author of five books including the controversial 'Alternative Science'. His Alternative Science website at http://www.alternativescience.com contains many extraordinary examples of hard scientific evidence for anomalous phenomena being ignored.


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