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Woman in her twenties discovers that she was born without a cerebellum

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She found out when she checked herself into the hospital because of a bad case of nausea

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Feng Yu et al / Brain

A woman living in China’s Shandong Province got a bit of a surprise recently when doctors at the Chinese PLA General Hospital told her that her brain was missing one of the most important centers for motor control: the cerebellum. She had initially checked herself into the hospital because of a bad case of dizziness and nausea, New Scientist reports.

Only nine other such cases in the world, and most died early on

The cerebellum is a small portion of the brain located at the back of the skull. But don’t be fooled by its size; it actually contains half of the brain’s neurons. And, unsurprisingly, having a missing cerebellum — cerebrospinal fluid was found in its place — caused quite a few problems for this woman over the course of her life. For one thing, her speech was slurred until age six, and she only began to walk at age seven. Moreover, she has had trouble maintaining her balance her entire life.

There have only been nine other such cases in the world and most died early on, so the fact that this woman has made it to adulthood – and is doing reasonably well — is pretty astounding. Doctors will undoubtedly want to study her further to find out how her brain adapted to the exclusion so quickly (it’s likely that the cortex took over for the missing mass). The results of her initial examination, however, are already available in the journal Brain.


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