The Wonderful World of Weird Brains

July 9, 2018

     

 Photo Source: Pixabay

 

       The brain is one of the most important organs in the entire body. It’s responsible for storing memories, commanding movement, and figuring out simple and complex problems. Sometimes the brain doesn’t act normally, resulting in interesting and weird conditions. However, the cases are rare, so they often do not have a lot to go on. Here, we will be delving into the wild and wonderful world of the strange brains found across the world.

 

     When you are seeing with your eyes, you often assume that you’re always getting the whole picture, but what if you’re actually only seeing half of it? For a relatively large segment of the population, this is actually a genuine reality. This condition is called hemispatial neglect (NIH). This can be caused by brain trauma or a stroke, especially if the brain damage was localized to one side. People who have this condition will often ignore anything on the opposite side of where their brain was injured. If your right side of your brain was injured, you wouldn’t be seeing things on the left side of your brain. For people with this condition, it is as if that respective side doesn’t exist. For instance, if asked to draw a clock, a patient will only fill in the numbers 1 through 6. Scientists have struggled to find a remedy for this condition. Most therapies have centered around trying to get the person’s brain to acknowledge the missing side again. A newer therapy called prism therapy uses special glasses called prisms to aid patients’ perspective skills and help them to see the neglected side.

 

     We often take for granted how we can recognize family and friends close to us. It’s a given that we would be able to recognize their faces and act accordingly. However, for someone with prosopagnosia (pros·o·pag·no·si·a), recognizing your own family’s faces is impossible. People with the condition cannot recognize human faces, but some may also be unable to recognize animals or objects. They have to rely on other aspects such as tone of voice, hair color, or how a person walks in a room (The Atlantic). About 2.5% of the population of the world has this, meaning 1 in 40 people have prosopagnosia, so it is not as rare as one would think. Scientists have found that the condition can be genetic or caused by brain trauma centered around a deficit in the right fusiform gyrus. The right fusiform gyrus is the part of the brain responsible for recording and remembering faces (NIH). While there is no formal long-term treatment for prosopagnosia, people have found ways to get around the issue through recognizing other external cues such as jewelry or clothing. While this is not a foolproof solution, it definitely helps people out with recognizing their friends or family.

 

     What if you woke up speaking in an entirely different accent? For some people, they have actually lived that reality. People with foreign accent syndrome have had this happen to them, and very often, the foreign accent is a place they’ve never even visited. Most cases involve some sort of brain damage in the part of the brain responsible for speech (ScienceDirect). For instance, Australian Woman Leanne Rowe got into a car accident, and when she healed, she came out speaking in a French accent (ABC News). Technically, the accent isn’t really French, but it sounds French. Languages often distinguish themselves through their vowel placement, and when someone’s jaw, tongue, or lips are placed even slightly differently, then they will seem like they are speaking in a foreign accent (The Atlantic). There is currently no official cure for the condition, but patients may sign up for voice lessons to try to get their accents back to how they were.

 

     The brain is a fascinating organ. We seem to have only scratched the surface of all of its complexities, and every day, we are still finding out new things about it. Part of that quest for knowledge has to do with learning about the strange conditions that seem to happen to people such as waking up with a foreign accent or only seeing half of the world. Scientists seek these rare brain conditions and like to study them, because they help us understand that brain in general. Scientists and researchers study both the cause and the possible treatment of these conditions. In all, it only reminds me of how little we actually know about our brains, how complex they are, and how much more there is to discover about it. 

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