WASHINGTON A man with an unusually tiny brain
managed to live an entirely normal life despite his condition,
caused by a fluid buildup in his skull, French researchers
reported on Thursday.
Scans of the 44-year-old man's brain showed that a huge
fluid-filled chamber called a ventricle took up most of the
room in his skull, leaving little more than a thin sheet of
actual brain tissue.
"He was a married father of two children, and worked as a
civil servant," Dr. Lionel Feuillet and colleagues at the
Universite de la Mediterranee in Marseille wrote in a letter to
the Lancet medical journal.
The man went to a hospital after he had mild weakness in
his left leg. When Feuillet's staff took his medical history,
they learned he had had a shunt inserted into his head to drain
away hydrocephalus -- water on the brain -- as an infant.
The shunt was removed when he was 14.
So the researchers did a computed tomography (CT) scan and
another type of scan called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
They were astonished to see "massive enlargement" of the
lateral ventricles -- usually tiny chambers that hold the
cerebrospinal fluid that cushions the brain.
Intelligence tests showed the man had an IQ of 75, below
the average score of 100 but not considered mentally retarded
or disabled, either.
"What I find amazing to this day is how the brain can deal
with something which you think should not be compatible with
life," commented Dr. Max Muenke, a paediatric brain defect
specialist at the National Human Genome Research Institute.
"If something happens very slowly over quite some time,
maybe over decades, the different parts of the brain take up
functions that would normally be done by the part that is
pushed to the side," added Muenke, who was not involved in the