Doctors in China were astonished when scans of a 24-year-old patient revealed that the woman was missing a part of her brain, and had lived for over two decades without a cerebellum.
The young woman went to a hospital complaining of nausea and vomiting, according to Yahoo News, and explained that she had experienced dizziness all her life. She had also exhibited long-term issues with movement, and wasn't able to stand unassisted until the age of 7.
When doctors performed a scan of her brain, they found that her cerebellum was entirely missing. In its place, there exists only a large hole filled with cerebrospinal fluid. This part of the brain is thought to be critical for motor control and motion. It also plays a major role in fine movement, timing, and coordination.
As io9 relates, the cerebellum, though tiny, is so densely packed that it accounts for half of the brain's total neurons, despite taking up just 10 percent of its mass. Its name means "little brain" in Latin, and it is located below and just to the rear of the brain's two hemispheres. Only nine people are known to have lived their life without a cerebellum.
Amazing. Woman aged 24 found to have no cerebellum in her brain http://t.co/xsxbfZy0qe by @hvthomson pic.twitter.com/EtbgtKHCQk
— Rowan Hooper (@rowhoop) September 11, 2014
The doctors detailed the young woman's case in the August 22 issue of the journal Brain. According to them, further testing showed that the absence of her cerebellum had been a lifelong issue.
"CT and MRI scans revealed no remnants of any cerebellar tissues, verifying complete absence of the cerebellum," they wrote.
Extremely rare case of woman with no cerebellum puzzles doctors http://t.co/fbx8OQk5Iw pic.twitter.com/eeHXA8XPDF
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) September 11, 2014
The woman's symptoms are not classified as debilitating, but rather as "mild to moderate." In addition to problems walking, her speech was reportedly unintelligible until the age of six, a common indicator of cerebellum dysfunction. Today, she exhibits a slight tremor in her voice, along with slurred pronunciation and a vocal quality that her doctors describe as "harsh." She is married with a daughter, and her pregnancy posed no major issues.
In May, The Inquisitr noted the story of Ralphee, a kitten in Australia that was born with an under-developed cerebellum. Guarded by a friendly cattle dog named Max, the kitten displayed many of the same symptoms, wobbling as it walked and exhibiting impaired motor skills.
Doctors consider the young woman's case an unusual example of neuroplasticity. In this process, regions of the brain adapt to compensate for damage to a bodily appendage or another part of the cerebrum. In this case, they believe her brain has compensated for the missing cerebellum.
[Image via io9]