What is it about?

In adults, the left side of the brain is important for word reading while the right side is important for face recognition. This division of labor emerges over childhood, during development. The question is whether both sides of the brain are together necessary for word and face recognition or whether a single side can suffice. In this study, individuals who had brain surgery as children to remove one side of the brain were able to perform on average at above 80% accuracy on tasks of face and word recognition. Importantly, it did not matter which side of the brain was removed. The results thus demonstrate the adaptability of the developing child brain: at the extreme, with one side of the brain removed, the remaining side alone can assume the functions typically distributed across both sides.

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Why is it important?

There is a question of whether brain organization is relatively static from birth or whether it can reorganize over development. Individuals who have a side of the brain removed as children allow for opportunity to assess brain reorganization at its upper-bound. The fact that individuals who develop with only a left or a right side of their brain can adequately recognize both faces and words--functions typically segregated across the two sides of the brain--attest to the brain's ability to reorganize during development. The work is also a first step forward toward providing more reassurance for medical teams and families weighing the risks and benefits of pediatric neurosurgery, as the results demonstrate the resiliency of the child brain.

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This page is a summary of: With childhood hemispherectomy, one hemisphere can support—but is suboptimal for—word and face recognition, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2212936119.
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