Monday, November 08, 2010

People Blind from Birth Use Visual Brain Area to Improve Other Senses: Can Hear and Feel With Greater Acuity

photo of blind manScienceDaily (Oct. 10, 2010) — People who have been blind from birth make use of the visual parts of their brain to refine their sensation of sound and touch, according to an international team of researchers led by neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC).

Published in the journal Neuron, the scientists say this finding helps explain why the blind have such advanced perception of these senses -- abilities that far exceed people who can see, they say.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers found that the blind use specialized "modules" in the visual cortex that process the spatial location of an object when a person localizes it in space. More generally, they believe that the different functional attributes that make up vision, such as analysis of space, patterns, and motion, still exist in the visual cortex of blind individuals. But instead of using those areas to understand what the eyes see, the blind use them to process what they hear and touch because the same components are necessary to process information from those senses.

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