The superhero Daredevil lost his vision as a child and all of his other senses were enhanced to superhuman levels. This might not be all that realistic but there is some truth behind this. You may have heard of someone who's blind or deaf having their other senses enhanced but have you ever wondered how this is possible?
A new study taking a look at those who have lost their hearing shows evidence that the parts of the brain responsible for hearing don't just stop working. Instead this part of the brain will actually begin to rewire itself into processing other senses. A phenomenon know as cross-modal neuroplasticity. Scientists are now delving deeper into neuroplasticity for clues about which parts of the brain are able to undergo these changes. Some parts of the brain are more plastic than others. Some can be modified with experience while others can only be changed during certain sensitive periods. Some parts of the brain have very little plasticity and cannot be changed at all.
Most research dealing with this has focused on the blind who many times experience enhanced auditory abilities. Studies of brain images have shown the visual cortex being taken over by other senses like hearing or touch. And one of the authors of this new study had previously shown that those who are deaf are better at perceiving peripheral vision and motion.
Scientists hope this growing field of research can be used in how we educate those who are normally developing as well as those who are deaf and blind. It may also help in rehabilitation of those who have experienced traumatic injuries as well as the treatment, and hopefully one day reversal, of neurodegenerative diseases and age related decline.
Sources: Bates, Mary. "Super Powers for the Blind and Deaf." Scientific American. N.p., 18 Sept. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
Cole DiStasio (Group 1)