Florida Chiropractic Blog

Ethos Health Group Blog

Your One-stop Solution For Pain

Unbelievable Resilience: How a Headless Chicken Defied the Odds and Survived the Most Severe TBI for 18 Months

Posted by Florida Spine and Injury | Jan 18, 2024 11:09:45 AM

In September 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen tried to kill a chicken named Mike to eat for dinner. His ax missed the chicken's jugular vein and most of its brain stem, so Mike remained alive. For 18 months the farmer fed it a mixture of milk and water using an eyedropper and toured with the chicken across the United States.

Beyond a sideshow oddity, Mike the chicken illustrates an important concept of the neuroarchitecture of the brain known as neural circuit function redundancy. This refers to the fact that vastly different synaptic connections can enable the same neurologic function. It's a design mechanism to ensure that if damage is sustained in a specific area of the brain there are other regions that can still pick up the slack.

Given that none of you will likely find a niche representing wrongfully beheaded chickens, why is this of relevance to your practice?

I have found that many attorneys want to grab onto imaging findings like white matter lesions in a particular part of the brain on MRI and make the easy link of "There's a lesion on this part of the brain, and the patient reports symptoms associated with injury to that part of the brain, so this is a slam dunk."

The challenge with this way of thinking lies in the redundancy concept I mentioned earlier. There are virtually no bodily functions that are exclusively controlled by just a single area of the brain. So rather than pin your case on one particular diagnostic study or one specific brain region it may be more prudent to evaluate as many domains of brain function as possible with as many tools available.

For example, damage to the cerebellum could be assessed by performing oculomotor tracking (such as the images below), videonystagmography (VNG), and computerized balance testing. 


Other tests can then be layered on top of these to assess other regions of the brain like EEG with ERPs, quantitative pupillometry, autonomic testing, neurocognitive testing, olfactory testing, and more. While I don't know that any of these tests would have been needed to diagnose the source of Mike the headless chicken's problems they can be quite impactful for your injured clients.

If you or someone you know would benefit from TBI diagnostics or therapy at any of our locations across Florida, please reach out via email at drwalker@flspineandinjury.com or you can call directly at 904-616-1284.


Topics: TBI

Leave a Comment