Fr√©d√©ric Gougoux and colleagues asked participants who had been blind from early life and who had previously demonstrated superior listening skills to try and judge the source of certain sounds while they were being brain scanned.
Unlike the normally-sighted participants, they showed activity in the occipital lobe, an area of the brain usually dedicated to processing visual information.
This suggests the brain of the blind participants had reorganised, or had organised differently, demonstrating how the brain can alter its structure depending on the demands placed on it.
This is a process known as neural plasticity and is known to be important in both early brain development and ongoing adult learning.
In fact, this isn’t the first study to show that the brain of blind people might be organised differently. Research published in 1993 showed that braile reading abilities can be impaired by using magnetic stimulation to disrupt the activity of the occipital lobe.
The researchers suggested that this area had been recruited for touch and language skills, rather than vision.