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24-Year-Old Woman has been Living without a Cerebellum

Update Date: Sep 12, 2014 09:31 AM EDT

A woman from China has been living for more than two decades without a major part of her brain, a new case study reported. According to the report, the woman had sought out medical care for dizziness and nausea that lasted a month. After several scans, the doctors discovered that instead of a cerebellum, she had cerebrospinal fluid.

"CT and MRI scans revealed no remnants of any cerebellar tissues, verifying complete absence of the cerebellum," the doctors wrote in the report.

The cerebellum exists at the back of the skill. Although it makes up only about 10 percent of the brain's volume, it contains roughly 50 percent of all the neurons within the organ. The cerebellum, which is often called the "little brain," has been linked to motor control as well as language.

When the doctors from a hospital in Shandong province examined her history, they discovered that the patient could not walk until she was seven-years-old. Before then, she needed help standing. In addition, she never learned how to run or jump. She also had slurred speech as a child but was intelligible by the time she turned six-years-old.

The doctors were surprised at how well the woman, who is a married mother of one, has lived without a cerebellum. The researchers hope that by tracking her progress, they can study neuroplasticity, which is the ability for the brain to adapt and adjust based on the environment, behavior or body.

This case is only the ninth one to ever be reported. In the other patients, their lack of a cerebellum was only discovered after their deaths. In this case, the doctors are not sure what the patient's prognosis is.

The report, "A new case of complete primary cerebellar agenesis: clinical and imaging findings in a living patient," was published in the journal, Brain.

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