Sunday, February 1, 2015

Scientists Map Brains of the Blind to Solve Mysteries of Human Brain Specialization

News Brief by Prachi Sharma

         Scientists at Hebrew University's Amedi Lab for Brain and Multisensory Research are challenging the current view of the functionality of the human brain. Currently, it is thought that the brain is divided into specific regions that perform distinct tasks after being activated by sensory input. However, by using Sensory Substitution Devices (SSDs), tools that change the destinations of sensory information, this performance specialization theory has been challenged. 
        The team studied the effects of the SSDs on brains in blind subjects, who could use the tool to "see" by hearing or touching. Specifically, blind subjects are able to create a mental visual image through a distinct soundscape that is translated through a webcam or smartphone.  Researchers were interested in discerning whether the subjects would use the same visual-word-form-area sub-region of the brain as sighted people. 
         Researchers identified that there is a "Visual Number Form Area" of the brain in the blind, illustrating that the same visual regions of the brain seen in sighted people were used by the blind subjects, including those who were congenitally blind. The notion that this visual number form area is distinct from the visual-word-form-area suggests that vision is not essential for the development of these areas. Thus, this research demonstrates a promising new branch of visual rehabilitation and lends key insights into human brain evolution.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "Scientists map brains of the blind to solve mysteries of human brain specialization." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 January 2015. .
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