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Half a brain is enough: the story of Nico
  1. PETER HALLIGAN

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    Half a brain is enough: the story of Nico. Edited by antonio m battro (Pp 118, £12.95). Published by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000. ISBN 0 521 78307 0.

    This short book describes the fascinating recovery and remarkable neurocognitive compensation of Nico, a little boy who at the age of three underwent a right hemispherectomy for intractable epilepsy. Although such cases are not now rare, the emphasis on how the neuropsychology of hemispherectomy can be used to inform education theory makes for an intriguing and readable book—part case history, part speculation, and from time to time—part educational manifesto. Throughout, however Battro manages to communicate the intricacies of brain surgery, neuronal architecture, developmental psychology, and functional imaging in such a way as to render the take-home message for “an epigenetic neurocognitive approach” both relevant and understandable. Supporting his own position that in such cases half brain amounts to is a “new brain”, Battro makes full use of the power of detailed single case observations to illustrate how Nico's abilities (musical motor and attention) have all developed normally despite the traditional belief that these functions were mediated by the right hemisphere. The only major behavioural impairment that Nico retained was poor constructional and handwriting skills, a handicap that Battro successfully succeeds in compensating by providing a computerised “information prosthesis”.

    Although some may take issue with some of the generalisiations and speculations offered—overall the book revisits important issues relevant to neuropsychology that deserve consideration by clinicians and neuroscientists alike.

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