If you were told that you would one day only have 10% of your brain capacity left, how well do you believe you can function? A 44-year-old French man went through this, and what scientists discovered due to his loss would leave the scientific world forever changed.
In 2007, after the man had gone to the doctor experiencing leg pains, scientist became interested in his case. While this may not sound like a strange enough situation to cause scientific interest the man had experienced the same issues as a child because of the fact that the ventricles in his brain had begun filling with cerebrospinal fluid. Unfortunately, this particular health issue would later pose him a number of issues.
And while you would think that by 2017 that we would have a better understanding of human consciousness, the research currently existing is quite minute. Furthermore, the information we have regarding how someone is able to perceive their own existence is minuscule. And if this knowledge is contained in the brain, then how could someone that had lost the majority of their brain still be aware of themselves?
What puzzled researchers most about the man was how he was able to live the majority of his life experiencing such difficulty and continue to be able to function normally, without realizing that anything was wrong with him. As a matter of fact, when he went to the doctor about his leg, the doctors discovered that inside of his brain, he had almost a majority of fluid, along with a severely thinned outside layer of his brain. Underneath, his actual brain had almost entirely been destroyed.
However, this man, in particular, wasn’t even left debilitated by his brain damage. His IQ was 75, but he continued to work civil servant. He also held a healthy family life with two kids and a wife.
According to neuroscientists, the thalamus is what is responsible for sending signals to the cerebral cortex in order for us to feel conscious. Based on this knowledge, it is believed that if any damage has been caused to this region of the brain, the brain would then go into a coma. They also have linked claustrum or the outer lining of the brain to consciousness.
But, if this was true, the man would not currently be conscious.
“Any theory of consciousness has to be able to explain why a person like that, who’s missing 90 percent of his neurons, still exhibits normal behavior,” Axel Cleeremans, a cognitive psychologist from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, told Quartz.
Cleermans believes that the plasticity of the brain is actually responsible for the ability to develop consciousness. He further states that consciousness is actually the “brain’s non-conceptual theory about itself, gained through experience.” Basically, it isn’t our ability to know something that makes us conscious, it is the fact that our brain knows that we know said information. It is because of this theory that the scientific world is now pondering whether or not Frenchman could have still been able to understand his existence despite the fact that only 10% of his brain was left functioning.