Areas of the brain in blind people can learn to process visual input through the use of sound, even after years or perhaps even lifelong blindness, according to new research reported in the November issue of the Cell Press journal Neuron. The findings challenge the common belief that if the visual cortex of the brain is deprived of information in early life, it may never develop functional specialization.
"The adult brain is more flexible that we thought," says senior author Prof.. Amir Amedi, of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences and the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada at the Hebrew University Medical School.
In their studies, Prof. Amedi and his colleagues taught congenitally blind adults to use sensory substitution devices (SSDs), which are non-invasive sensory aids that provide visual information to the blind via their existing senses. For example, when a person uses a visual-to-auditory SSD, images from a video camera are converted into "soundscapes" that represent the images, allowing the user to listen to and then interpret the visual information coming from the camera (i.e. "seeing" with sounds).
Blind people could also use SSDs to recognize soundscapes of visually complex categories such as faces, houses, and body parts. The results suggest that distinguishing meaningful shapes does not require vision, even though the brain activity that's needed to do so takes place in the part of the brain normally associated with vision in sighted individuals.
Cell Press: http://www.cellpress.com
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Surgeons in Australia say they have performed the first heart transplant using a "dead heart".
Ebola underlines the urgent need for a new way of responding to global epidemics, say Harvey Rubin and Nicholas Saidel
As researchers from Africa to China to America race to develop vaccines and treatments to fight Ebola, health experts are grappling with the economics of a disease that until this year had been off the drug industry's radar.
Is California's severe drought hurting the nutrient content of fruit? No, preliminary data on pomegranates suggest. The fruit may be smaller, but packed with more antioxidants, tests show.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued warning letters to companies marketing products claimed to be cures for Ebola. One firm says it will drop such claims — but it's still selling the product.
Parents of baby with fatal mitochondrial disease say techniques being considered by select committee could prevent them having another seriously ill child
Ultrasound has been used to open the brain's protective sheath in people with aggressive brain tumours – to deliver chemo drugs directly to cancer cells
The World Health Organization says two vaccine candidates now undergoing small-scale tests of dosage and safety in people might be ready for broader deployment in Africa by early 2015.
Just because the Food and Drug Administration recalls a supplement because it contains dangerous substances, doesn't mean the product disappears from the market.
9 million new cases and 1.5 million deaths in 2013