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Other sense shown to be enhanced in the blind

The findings, according to researchers from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, explain that the brain ‘rewires’ other neural sensory connections to compensate for the loss of visual abilities. This results to heightened sense of touch, hearing, and smell, as well as cognitive functions such as mory and language.Ms Corinna Bauer, the study’s lead author said, “Our results donstrate that the structural and functional neuroplastic brain changes occurring as a result of early ocular blindness may be more widespread than initially thought.”{{quote-A:R-W:450-I:2-Q: The brain rewires itself in a manner to use the information at its disposal so that it can interact with the environment in a more effective manner, -WHO:Dr Lotfi Merabet, Optometrist-scientist and mber of the research faculty in the Vision Rehabilitation Service at Massachusetts Eye and Ear}}“We observed significant changes not only in the occipital cortex, but also areas implicated in mory, language processing, and sensory motor functions,” she added.Bauer’s team used MRI multimodal brain imaging techniques to study 12 test subjects who had been blind prior to the age of three and compare th with scans from 16 normally sighted subjects.On the scans of those with early blindness, the scientists found changes in functional and structural connectivity that were enhanced compared to those with normal sight. The team also observed connections that sent information back and forth between areas of the brain that they did not observe in the normally sighted group.These connections, that appear to be unique in those with profound blindness, suggest that the brain ‘rewires’ itself in the absence of visual information to boost other senses. The researchers believes this is possible through the process of neuroplasticity, or the ability of our brains to naturally adapt to our experiences.“Even in the case of being profoundly blind, the brain rewires itself in a manner to use the information at its disposal so that it can interact with the environment in a more effective manner,” according to senior study author Dr Lotfi Merabet.“If the brain can rewire itself – perhaps through training and enhancing the use of other modalities like hearing, and touch and language tasks such as braille reading – there is trendous potential for the brain to adapt,” Merabet added.The findings were published in the journal PLOS One and the researchers are hoping that this study could pave the way for better understanding of how the brain works and develop effective rehabilitation methods for blind people to carry out their daily lives even with the absence of visual information.

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