The Growing Brain
How the Brain Develops and Matures
Laura lives with her parents in the outskirts of Durham, North Carolina.* She’s a happy, upbeat, and popular girl, who does well at school and is at the top of her class in both mathematics and reading. But in the autumn of her eighth year everything changes. Laura starts getting ever more frequent headaches, particularly in the morning, and attacks of nausea and vomiting. Her anxious parents take her to the family doctor, who refers her to a neurologist and a magnetic resonance (MR) scan confirms her parents’ greatest fear: a brain tumor.
The MR images show that the tumor is located next to the midbrain and is probably a medullablastoma, a malignant tumor especially common in children. The expanding tumor is increasing the pressure inside her skull, and it’s this pressure that’s creating both the headaches and the nausea. Fortunately, the particular type of tumor has a good prognosis. Surgeons remove it and Laura is given cytostatics and radiotherapy to kill any remaining tumor cells. There is every sign that the operation is a success and that the tumor will not be returning. She is cured.
* Laura is not her real name.