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The Brain’s Amazing Plasticity

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Originally posted on August 16, 2016.

In Psychology, 11th Edition, Nathan DeWall and I illustrate brain plasticity with a 6-year-old girl who had most of her right hemisphere removed to end life-threatening seizures. In one of the most astonishing neuroscience findings, her remaining hemisphere compensated by putting other areas to work, enabling her to function well.

One medical team, reflecting on other child hemispherectomies, reported being “awed” by how well the children had retained their memory, personality, and humor. The younger the child, the greater the chance that the remaining hemisphere can take over the missing hemisphere’s functions.

Only recently did I become aware—thanks to a delightful new article by Scott Lilienfeld and Steven Jay Lynn—of a review of 52 hemispherectomy cases by Benjamin S. Carson and six of his Johns Hopkins colleagues. Nearly half of the 52, the Carson team reported, were living successful independent lives—at their age level in school or working productively.

And, yes, for the rest of the story, “Carson” is that Benjamin Carson . . . or as he later became known to millions of Americans, 2016 Republican presidential hopeful, Ben Carson.

About the Author
David Myers has spent his entire teaching career at Hope College, Michigan, where he has been voted “outstanding professor” and has been selected by students to deliver the commencement address. His award-winning research and writings have appeared in over three dozen scientific periodicals and numerous publications for the general public. He also has authored five general audience books, including The Pursuit of Happiness and Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. David Myers has chaired his city's Human Relations Commission, helped found a thriving assistance center for families in poverty, and spoken to hundreds of college and community groups. Drawing on his experience, he also has written articles and a book (A Quiet World) about hearing loss, and he is advocating a transformation in American assistive listening technology (see www.hearingloop.org).