Posts Tagged ‘Anatomy’

What If Jupiter Never Existed?

May 11, 2016

Is Jupiter ultimately responsible for preserving life on Earth?

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What happens when you have no cerebellum in your brain?

September 14, 2014

A woman has reached the age of 24 without anyone realising she was missing a large part of her brain. The case highlights just how adaptable the organ is.

The discovery was made when the woman was admitted to hospital complaining of dizziness and nausea. Doctors did a CAT scan and immediately identified the source of the problem – her entire cerebellum was missing. The space where it should be was empty of tissue. Instead it was filled with cerebrospinal fluid, which cushions the brain and provides defence against disease.

Scan showing no cerebellum (top). Normal brain (bottom).

Scan showing no cerebellum (top). Normal brain (bottom).

The cerebellum’s main job is to control voluntary movements and balance, and it is also thought to be involved in our ability to learn specific motor actions and speak. Problems in the cerebellum can lead to severe mental impairment, movement disorders, epilepsy or a potentially fatal build-up of fluid in the brain. However, in this woman, the missing cerebellum resulted in only mild to moderate motor deficiency, and mild speech problems such as slightly slurred pronunciation. Learn more here.

Elephants Have a Sixth ‘Toe’

January 31, 2012

Elephants walk on the world’s biggest platform shoes. Three hundred years ago, a surgeon claimed elephants had six toes instead of the usual five, setting off a debate about whether an extra digit was really possible. Modern anatomists scoffed at the idea, insisting instead that the extra toe was really just a big lump of cartilage.

Now, scientists have found that elephants footwear also contains hidden stiletto heels.

Even though an elephant’s leg looks like a solid column, it actually stands on tip-toe like a horse or a dog. Its heel rests on a large pad of fat that gives it a flat-footed appearance. The pad hides a sixth toe — a backward-pointing strut that evolved from one of their sesamoids, a set of small tendon-anchoring bones in the animal’s ankle.

This extra digit, between 5 and 10 centimetres long, had been dismissed as an irrelevant piece of cartilage. Learn more here or here.