Modern science assumes that our consciousness is generated solely by electro-chemical processes in the brain, a fortunate byproduct of billions of neurons recording and processing sensory information as it comes in. But that view comes into question if one take into account stories from ancient traditions of astral travel, and more modern accounts of out-of-body experiences by individuals that live at the edge of reality as we know it. But how can we determine which of these views is correct, or if there is a shade of gray involved somewhere between the two? Perhaps the answer, or maybe an even better question, can come from rare cases where otherwise normal individuals have what might be considered insufficient brain matter to properly function.

In 2007, a 44-year-old civil servant in France was admitted to a medical clinic due to weakness that he was experiencing in his left leg. The doctors performed a CT scan of his brain, suspecting a neurological cause, especially considering that the patient had a similar problem with his leg when he was fourteen, due to the need for the adjustment of a ventriculoatrial shunt that had been installed in his cranium when he was six months old.

The results of the CT scan shocked the doctors: this man’s cranium was almost an entirely hollow cavity. What was there was a very thin cortical mantle, basically what was left of the brain itself, lining the interior of his skull. This was due to a massive enlargement of the ventricular system, a cluster of four cavities in the center of the brain that produce the cerebrospinal fluid that cushions our brain and spinal cord.

This individual, despite having what would otherwise have been a fatal neurological condition, carried on a normal life, with a wife, two children, and a regular job. He did have a below-average IQ of 75 — but considering his condition, this is still remarkable.