Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Some blind people 'see' with their ears, neuropsychologists show

Date:
March 17, 2011
Source:
University of Montreal
Summary:
Neuropsychologists compared the brain activity of people who can see and people who were born blind, discovering that the part of the brain that normally works with our eyes to process vision and space perception can actually rewire itself to process sound information instead.

Some blind people 'see' with their ears. The part of the brain that normally works with our eyes to process vision and space perception can actually rewire itself to process sound information instead.
Credit: iStockphoto/Eva Serrabassa

Dr. Olivier Collignon of the University of Montreal's Saint-Justine Hospital Research Centre compared the brain activity of people who can see and people who were born blind, and discovered that the part of the brain that normally works with our eyes to process vision and space perception can actually rewire itself to process sound information instead.

Related Articles


The research was undertaken in collaboration with Dr Franco Lepore of the Centre for Research in Neuropsychology and Cognition and was published March 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research builds on other studies which show that the blind have a heightened ability to process sounds as part of their space perception. "Although several studies have shown occipital regions of people who were born blind to be involved in nonvisual processing, whether the functional organization of the visual cortex observed in sighted individuals is maintained in the rewired occipital regions of the blind has only been recently investigated," Collignon said. The visual cortex, as its name would suggest, is responsible for processing sight. The right and left hemisphere of the brain have one each. They are located at the back of the brain, which is called the occipital lobe. "Our study reveals that some regions of the right dorsal occipital stream do not require visual experience to develop a specialization for the processing of spatial information and are functionally integrated in the preexisting brain network dedicated to this ability."

The researchers worked with 11 individuals who were born blind and 11 who were not. Their brain activity was analyzed via MRI scanning while they were subjected to a series of tones. "The results demonstrate the brain's amazing plasticity," Collignon said. Plasticity is a scientific term that refers to the brain's ability to change as a result of an experience. "The brain designates a specific set of areas for spatial processing, even if it is deprived of its natural inputs since birth. The visually deprived brain is sufficiently flexible that it uses "neuronal niche" to develop and perform functions that are sufficiently close to the ones required by the remaining senses. Such a research demonstrates that the brain should be more considered as a function-oriented machine rather than a pure sensory machine."

The findings raise questions regarding how this rewiring occurs during the development of blind new born babies. "In early life, the brain is sculpting itself on the basis of experience, with some synaptic connections eliminated and others strengthened," Collignon noted. Synaptic connections enable our neurons, or brain cells, to communicate. "After a peak of development ending approximately at the age of 8 months, approximately 40% of the synapses of the visual cortex are gradually removed to reach a stable synaptic density at approximately the age of 11 years. It is possible that that the rewiring occurs as part of the maintenance of our ever changing neural connections, but this theory will require further research," Collignon said.

Collignon's study received funding from the Fondation de l'Hτpital Sainte-Justine, the Fonds de la recherche en santι du Quιbec, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada, and the Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique of Belgium.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Montreal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. O. Collignon, G. Vandewalle, P. Voss, G. Albouy, G. Charbonneau, M. Lassonde, F. Lepore. Functional specialization for auditory-spatial processing in the occipital cortex of congenitally blind humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; 108 (11): 4435 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1013928108

Cite This Page:

University of Montreal. "Some blind people 'see' with their ears, neuropsychologists show." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110316104123.htm>.
University of Montreal. (2011, March 17). Some blind people 'see' with their ears, neuropsychologists show. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110316104123.htm
University of Montreal. "Some blind people 'see' with their ears, neuropsychologists show." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110316104123.htm (accessed March 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

S. Leone in New Anti-Ebola Lockdown

S. Leone in New Anti-Ebola Lockdown

AFP (Mar. 28, 2015) — Sierra Leone imposed a three-day nationwide lockdown Friday for the second time in six months in a bid to prevent a resurgence of the deadly Ebola virus. Duration: 01:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
These Popular Antibiotics Can Cause Permanent Nerve Damage

These Popular Antibiotics Can Cause Permanent Nerve Damage

Newsy (Mar. 27, 2015) — A popular class of antibiotic can leave patients in severe pain and even result in permanent nerve damage. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WH Plan to Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Germs

WH Plan to Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Germs

AP (Mar. 27, 2015) — The White House on Friday announced a five-year plan to fight the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria amid fears that once-treatable germs could become deadly. (March 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
House Ready to Pass Medicare Doc Bill

House Ready to Pass Medicare Doc Bill

AP (Mar. 26, 2015) — In rare bipartisan harmony, congressional leaders pushed a $214 billion bill permanently blocking physician Medicare cuts toward House passage Thursday, moving lawmakers closer to resolving a problem that has plagued them for years. (March 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins