See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 23, Issue 6

The Mystery of the Missed Connection

A common but little understood malformation reveals the brain's incredible plasticity

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Sarah Mellnik was four years old when her doctors discovered the striking anomaly in her brain. She was missing the massive connective bridge that ordinarily unites the brain's two hemispheres. This malformation can delay the development of verbal and motor skills, among other abilities. Today, however, Mellnik is a gregarious and active 29-year-old. She not only walks, she volunteers as an assistant dance teacher.

These milestones did not come easily. In high school she endured other students' taunts, disbelieving teachers and difficulties with class work. In spite of her struggles, Mellnik earned her high school diploma in 2000. Her mantra, which she repeats to herself and others like her, is “Never give up.”

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