Blind people can use the visual cortex to locate sounds

A study just published in the open access journal PLoS Biology has reported that blind people might be able to use parts of the brain for locating sounds that sighted people normally use for vision.

Frédéric 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.

Gougoux_study.jpg

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.

Synopsis or full text from PLoS Biology.
Link to story on nature.com.

One Comment

  1. Posted February 2, 2005 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Blind people can use visual areas of brain to locate sounds

    Another great post on the Mind Hacks blog. I think I will buy this book. Well, I’m also fairly broke and I have a few projects on the go, so we will have to see. If I do pick it up, the review will be published here of course. But, there is 55 other b…


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