We actually have the answer to this question as the result of the unfortunate circumstance in which a young girl found herself (this can be found in Eagleman’s “The Brain”). As a result of the damaging consequences from a disease she was suffering, it was necessary to remove an entire half of her brain. And what were the consequences from this surgery, She is weak on one side of her body, but otherwise she’s essentially indistinguishable from other children. She has no problems understanding language, music, math, and stories. She’s good in school and participates in sports.
When I was a graduate student I remember reading a study about a man who has a result of hydrocephalus had only 10% of the volume of a normal cortex. Nevertheless, he not only was able to lead a normal life, but earned an bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Should anyone no a reference for this study, please comment. It was in the early 1970s and in the journal Science, I believe.
Then there is the research described in the books by Doidge (enter Doidge in this blog’s search block). Neuroplasticity as reflected in the brain’s ability to heal itself is truly phenomenal. There are frequent mentions of individuals whose autopsies indicated that they had the defining neurofibril tangles and amyloid plaque that defines Alzheimer’s, yet never exhibited any symptoms or cognitive deficits of the disease. This finding has been accounted for by saying that these individuals had a cognitive reserve that overcame these potential debilitating characteristics. So the recommendation of the healthy memory blog is to undertake a lifestyle that not only prevents Alzheimer’s, but also leads to a more satisfying life.
It seems that most of the research on Alzheimer’s is aimed at detecting the plaque or tangles early, identify relevant genes, sor in slowing the growth of these features. I would appreciate some work that attempts to capitalize on the brain’s neuroplasticity.
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