If I Only Had a Brain

By Coding Strategies on January 11th, 2019

The 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow (played by the incomparable Ray Bolger) sings that he would be much better off if he only had a brain. This song has been recorded in the years since by a number of famous musicians and the lyrics are timeless. Depending on which dissection of the Wizard you read, the scarecrow may represent the ability to step beyond the beaten path or the acceptance of making mistakes. In general, these analyses center on the Scarecrow as the personification of personal choice.

There are plenty of synonyms for the word “brainless” including dumb, mindless, foolish, silly, stupid, senseless, thoughtless, witless and idiotic. It is easy to see that none of these terms are particularly flattering!

There are also a number of medical conditions that center on missing brain components as well. These are generally called cephalic disorders and include abnormal growth of certain parts of the brain, incomplete division of the brain and missing part of the brain. USA Today reported on September 12, 2014 that a 24-year-old woman in China was found to be missing her cerebellum. She didn’t start walking until she was 7 years old, did not speak clearly until she was 6 and has difficulty walking today. However, she is married with a daughter and there is no history of neurological problems in her family.

Only 8 other people have ever been found to have this condition, known as cerebellar agenesis. The cerebellum is located beneath the 2 hemispheres of the brain and represents about 10 percent of the brain’s total volume. Its main job is to control voluntary movements and balance, and problems in this area typically lead to severe medical issues. However, the missing cerebellum in this woman resulted in only mild to moderate motor deficiency and slightly slurred speech. The patient’s doctors suggest that normal cerebellar function may have been taken over by the cortex and hope that brain scans will reveal the answer. Regardless, in the words of Jeffrey Eugenides, “Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind.”