Research discovers how the deaf have super vision

October 10, 2010

Deaf or blind people often report enhanced abilities in their remaining senses, but up until now, no one has explained how and why that could be. Researchers at The University of Western Ontario, led by Stephen Lomber of The Centre for Brain and Mind have discovered there is a causal link between enhanced visual abilities and reorganization of the part of the brain that usually handles auditory input in congenitally deaf cats. The findings, published online in Nature Neuroscience, provide insight into the plasticity that may occur in the brains of deaf people.

Cats are the only animal besides humans that can be born . Using congenitally deaf cats and hearing cats, Lomber and his team showed that only two specific visual abilities are enhanced in the deaf: visual localization in the peripheral field and visual motion detection. They found the part of the that would normally pick up peripheral sound enhanced , leading the researchers to conclude the function stays the same but switches from auditory to visual.

"The is very efficient, and doesn't let unused space go to waste," says Lomber, an associate professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, and Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Social Science. "The brain wants to compensate for the lost with enhancements that are beneficial. For example, if you're deaf, you would benefit by seeing a car coming far off in your peripheral vision, because you can't hear that car approaching from the side; the same with being able to more accurately detect how fast something is moving."

Lomber and his team are trying to discover how a deaf brain differs from a hearing brain to better understand how the brain handles cochlear implants. If the brain has rewired itself to compensate for the loss of hearing, what happens when hearing is restored? "The analogy I use is, if you weren't using your cottage and lent it to a friend. That friend gets comfortable, maybe rearranges the furniture, and settles in. They may not want to leave just because you've come back," explains Lomber.

He also plans to conduct research to see if these changes in the brain also happen to those who could hear at one time, or if auditory experience prevents the changes from occurring.

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4 comments

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HealingMindN
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 10, 2010
As long as that friend who moves in and gets comfortable helps pay the rent and helps with the cleaning, it's fine by me.
RobertKarlStonjek
5 / 5 (2) Oct 11, 2010
Vision dominates so much in the average human that we see like we hear ie frontal focus, even though the SPL sensitivity varies little front to back (about 3db).

To restore both peripheral audition and vision one only need sit outside with the eyes closed and listen for about 20 minutes, becoming aware of the soundscape through 360 degrees. After doing this a couple of times one becomes aware of sounds in the periphery generally and the visual periphery awareness also increases, at least in my own personal experience.
mjesfahani
not rated yet Oct 11, 2010
What about for Multiple Sclerosis ? Can brain compensate for the problems MS makess ?
metsubo
not rated yet Oct 11, 2010
So why do I have a deaf mouse?

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