MIT on Brain Functions in Blindness

In this article from 2011, a group of MIT neuroscientists discovered that parts of the visual cortex – in other words, parts of the brain associated with vision – can completely switch functions in congenitally blind people for use in language processing.

“‘Your brain is not a prepackaged kind of thing. It doesn’t develop along a fixed trajectory, rather, it’s a self-building toolkit. The building process is profoundly influenced by the experiences you have during your development,’ says Marina Bedny, an MIT postdoctoral associate in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.”

It turns out that at least for these two sensory cortices, their function is far more plastic than neuroscientists have believed.

‘Amir Amedi, a neurophysiologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: “I think it suggests that in principle, and if the changes are forced early in development and early in life, any brain area can change its skin and do any task or function.”’

This is fascinating! This study suggests that a single significant change can radically change how the brain works for one person. This is almost like neural evolution over one generation! Obviously it’s not, but this is a huge indicator that the brain’s regions may not be as hardwired as we originally believed.

Read the full article here.

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