Health
Simple blood test diagnoses Parkinson's disease long before symptoms appear — A new research report appearing in the December issue of the FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org) shows how scientists from the United Kingdom have developed a simple blood test to…
Early sign of Alzheimer's reversed in lab — One of the earliest known impairments caused by Alzheimer's disease - loss of sense of smell - can be restored by removing a plaque-forming protein in a mouse model of the disease,…
Parental controls on embryonic development? — When a sperm fertilises an egg, each contributes a set of chromosomes to the resulting embryo, which at these very early stages is called a zygote. Early on, zygotic genes are inert,…
Newly discovered heart stem cells make muscle and bone — Researchers have identified a new and relatively abundant pool of stem cells in the heart. The findings in the December issue of Cell Stem Cell, a Cell Press publication, show that…
BUSM researchers develop blood test to detect membranous nephropathy — Research conducted by a pair of physicians at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Centre (BMC) has led to the development of a test that can help diagnose…
New hip implants no better than traditional implants — New hip implants appear to have no advantage over traditional implants, suggests a review of the evidence published on bmj.com today…
Action needed to improve men's health in Europe — Policies aimed specifically at men are urgently needed to improve the health of Europe's men, say experts on bmj.com today…
Probiotics reduce infections for patients in intensive care — Traumatic brain injury is associated with a profound suppression of the patient's ability to fight infection. At the same time the patient also often suffers hyper-inflammation, due…
High blood sugar levels in older women linked to colorectal cancer — Elevated blood sugar levels are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, according to a study led by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.…
Engineered botulism toxins could have broader role in medicine — The most poisonous substance on Earth - already used medically in small doses to treat certain nerve disorders and facial wrinkles - could be re-engineered for an expanded role in helping…
Where am I? > Home > News > Health

Neuropsychologist proves that some blind people 'see' with their ears

Science Centric | 17 March 2011 17:39 GMT
Printable version A clip for your blog or website E-mail the story to a friend
Bookmark or share the story on your social network Vote for this article Decrease text size Increase text size
DON'T MISS —
Scientists first to sequence genome of cancer patient
Scientists first to sequence genome of cancer patient — For the first time, scientists have decoded the complete DNA of a cancer patient and traced her disease - acute myelogenous…
Seasonal affective disorder may be linked to genetic mutation
Seasonal affective disorder may be linked to genetic mutation — With the days shortening toward winter, many people will begin to experience the winter blahs. For some, the effect can be…
More Health

Dr Olivier Collignon of the University of Montreal's Saint-Justine Hospital Research Centre compared the brain activity of people who can see and people who were born blind, and discovered that the part of the brain that normally works with our eyes to process vision and space perception can actually rewire itself to process sound information instead. The research was undertaken in collaboration with Dr Franco Lepore of the Centre for Research in Neuropsychology and Cognition and was published late yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research builds on other studies which show that the blind have a heightened ability to process sounds as part of their space perception. 'Although several studies have shown occipital regions of people who were born blind to be involved in nonvisual processing, whether the functional organisation of the visual cortex observed in sighted individuals is maintained in the rewired occipital regions of the blind has only been recently investigated,' Collignon said. The visual cortex, as its name would suggest, is responsible for processing sight. The right and left hemisphere of the brain have one each. They are located at the back of the brain, which is called the occipital lobe. 'Our study reveals that some regions of the right dorsal occipital stream do not require visual experience to develop a specialisation for the processing of spatial information and are functionally integrated in the preexisting brain network dedicated to this ability.'

The researchers worked with 11 individuals who were born blind and 11 who were not. Their brain activity was analysed via MRI scanning while they were subjected to a series of tones. 'The results demonstrate the brain's amazing plasticity,' Collignon said. Plasticity is a scientific term that refers to the brain's ability to change as a result of an experience. 'The brain designates a specific set of areas for spatial processing, even if it is deprived of its natural inputs since birth. The visually deprived brain is sufficiently flexible that it uses 'neuronal niche' to develop and perform functions that are sufficiently close to the ones required by the remaining senses. Such a research demonstrates that the brain should be more considered as a function-oriented machine rather than a pure sensory machine.'

The findings raise questions regarding how this rewiring occurs during the development of blind new born babies. 'In early life, the brain is sculpting itself on the basis of experience, with some synaptic connections eliminated and others strengthened,' Collignon noted. Synaptic connections enable our neurones, or brain cells, to communicate. 'After a peak of development ending approximately at the age of 8 months, approximately 40% of the synapses of the visual cortex are gradually removed to reach a stable synaptic density at approximately the age of 11 years. It is possible that that the rewiring occurs as part of the maintenance of our ever changing neural connections, but this theory will require further research,' Collignon said.

Source: University of Montreal


Leave a comment
The details you provide on this page [e-mail address] will not be used to send unsolicited e-mail, and will not be supplied to a third party! Please note that we can not promise to give everyone a response. Comments are fully moderated. Once approved they will be posted within 24 hours.
Expand the form to leave a comment

RSS FEEDS, NEWSLETTER
Find the topic you want. Science Centric offers several RSS feeds for the News section.

Or subscribe for our Newsletter, a free e-mail publication. It is published practically every day.

CSIRO ready to commercialise new GI technologyCSIRO ready to commercialise new GI technology

— The CSIRO Food Futures Flagship has developed an automated instrument for accurately predicting glycaemic index (GI) and resistant starch (RS) in food products.…

'Opt out' system could solve donor organ shortage'Opt out' system could solve donor organ shortage

— A system of presumed consent for organ donation - where people have to opt out of donating their organs when they die - is the best way to tackle a growing waiting…

Our diet gives deadly bacteria a targetOur diet gives deadly bacteria a target

— University of Adelaide researchers are part of an international research team that has uncovered the first example of a bacterium causing disease in humans by targeting…

Scientists develop safer, more effective TB vaccine for HIV-positive peopleScientists develop safer, more effective TB vaccine for HIV-positive people

— UCLA scientists engineered a new tuberculosis (TB) vaccine specifically designed for HIV-positive people that was shown to be safer and more potent than the current…

Popular tags in Health: cancer · diabetes · malaria · obesity