Though much about the human brain remains mysterious, medical experts know that the effects of a brain injury can depend on which part of the brain is damaged. Different regions of the brain perform different functions, so an injury to a particular part of this vital organ can affect you differently than a blow to another region.
Instead of a brain injury, some people are born with brains that are different from the norm. Some of them have profound mental disabilities. Others are able to function, after their brains adapt in interesting ways.
NPR recently profiled a man who was born without a cerebellum. His experience has helped scientists learn more about this part of the brain, and how the brain can adapt to challenges.
When he was a child, he was delayed in milestones like sitting up, walking and talking. Doctors were unable to diagnose is his issue at first, but when the boy was 5, a brain scan revealed the missing cerebellum.
The cerebellum helps control and refine movement and functions. As one neurologist put it, “It doesn’t make things. It makes things better.” So, the cerebellum does not move your legs when you walk, but it keeps your stride straight and balanced.
The man’s parents provided him special education and physical therapy. He had to work hard to learn many behaviors most people learn naturally. For example, how to behave in social situations, how to show emotion and how to speak clearly. Today, he lives independently and works.
Other congenital brain disorders and brain injuries may make doing so impossible, but they may qualify a person for Social Security Disability benefits or Supplemental Security Insurance.