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.
Findings published in The Lancet show chance of heart attack drops by 48% when people most at risk take cholesterol-lowering medications
Paranoid fears are common and have a variety of causes but new research shows specific issue cognitive behaviour therapy can bring significant benefits
Popular belief has it that human ‘sex pheromones’ exist and are well-established by the scientific community. But all is not as it seems, as Tristram Wyatt explains
Toward the end of World War II, the Nazis blocked all food and fuel supplies to the Netherlands, leading to famine. Many babies born during this famine suffered long-term effects, including a higher incidence of a variety of conditions such as heart disease, obesity, glucose intolerance, and obstructed airways.
Your girlfriend is right. Adults can expect to get flu only twice every 10 years, suggests an analysis of the antibodies in people's blood
Drinking a few cups of coffee a day may help people avoid clogged arteries - a known risk factor for heart disease - South Korean researchers believe.
Researchers in China produce a herd of genetically engineered cows that are better able to ward off bovine TB.
The first model of a zombie epidemic to use real US census data lets you choose where the plague begins and how fast it spreads
Revealing new details about the origins of AIDS, scientists said on Monday half the lineages of the main type of human immunodeficiency virus, HIV-1, originated in gorillas in Cameroon before infecting people, probably via bushmeat hunting.
Few doctors — and few patients — realize just how profoundly early abuse, neglect and other childhood traumas can damage an adult's physical health.