CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On Jan. 8, 2011, Jared Loughner fired a gun into the head of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The bullet went through the front left side of her brain, and out the other side of her head.
Two years and three surgeries later, the now-retired Giffords can walk and talk. One Charleston neurologist believes that's not because of the operations doctors performed on her.
Instead, Dr. Iraj Derakhshan believes that Giffords' recovery is because she's left-handed, not right-handed as she thinks.
"This lady underwent three unnecessary surgeries," said Derakhshan, who plans to present his theory at a conference of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons later this month.
Derakhshan, a former associate professor at the University of Cincinnati and Case Western Reserve University, has never seen or treated Giffords. He formed his theory based on media reports and public documents about the case.
He will be one of about 600 physicians from all over the world to present his theory via an electronic poster at the annual American Association of Neurological Surgeons conference. His peer-reviewed presentation will be available to attendees via an app. The conference is taking place in New Orleans beginning April 28.
Derakhshan said a person's consciousness is found in only the dominant side of the brain. In a left-handed person, he said, consciousness is found in the right side of the brain.
"The left hemisphere in [a left-hander] is just a slave microprocessor in the language of computer today," he said. It controls breathing, too, Derakhshan said. He believes Giffords would have died if she were shot in the actual dominant side of her brain.
His theory differs from a common understanding of the brain, which is that the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and vice versa.
Many times physicians will operate on patients who have a brain bleed or lesion on their non-dominant hemisphere because they fear the increased pressure on the brain will kill the person.
But Derakhshan said when patients have pressure on the non-dominant side of their brains, doctors would be better off giving the person good nursing care and physical therapy and letting the brain heal on its own, rather than operating on the brain. Surgeons often remove good parts of brain along with bad parts and further damage the brain, he said.