On a spring day in 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, a 25-year-old man was shot and accidentally hit his head. Although this incident did not kill this young man, it made him see the world upside down. He was under the care of a physician for nearly half a century, leading to new theories about the effects of brain damage and our understanding of brain functions.
An article recently published in the journal Neurologia narrates the strange case of a patient called “Patient M”, who saw the world upside down due to a bullet hitting his head. For example, objects and people that entered the field of vision of this patient from the left side, as if they entered from the right side.
Patient M could even read letters and numbers written in reverse just like normal numbers and not notice the difference. These changes apparently even affected his sense of hearing and touch. However, this patient himself claimed that these symptoms were not acute and apparently once said to show his indifference to them: “These are things that sometimes appear in front of my eyes.”
Moreover, apparently, this change in receiving different senses of the surrounding world did not have a special impact on the life of patient M. He first noticed these strange changes when he saw construction workers working upside down on scaffolding in the street. This patient could even read the time from any angle on wristwatches. He said that the colors of the objects seemed to him to be separate objects and sometimes he saw the objects as three or without color.
Patient M changed our understanding of brain functions
The doctor who was following M’s condition was a Spanish neurologist named Justo Gonzalo. His research into this strange phenomenon led to important achievements in our understanding of brain functions. Gonzalo claimed in a theory that the brain is not a collection of distinct pieces and instead, its different functions are distributed as a spectrum in different parts of this organ. This idea was contrary to conventional knowledge about the brain at the time.
This doctor proposed the theory of brain dynamics by studying patient M and other patients who suffered brain damage. In this theory, the effect of brain damage depends on the size and location of the damage. He showed that these injuries do not destroy specific brain functions, but affect the balance of various functions; As was the case with patient M.
Gonzalo identified three syndromes in these injuries: central (disorders in several senses), epicentral (similar to central but with effects that are not the same distribution) and peripheral (affecting the brain passages of some senses).
Dr. Gonzalo finally passed away in 1986 and no one knew the true identity of this patient, because he was referred to as Patient M in all medical records. However, it is estimated that he also passed away in the 1990s. But now his daughter, Isabel Gonzalo, has published her father’s findings with the help of neurophysiologist Alberto Garcia Molina in the form of this scientific paper.