Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Superhuman Senses

          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)





10 comments:

  1. I have always found it interesting how individuals with impaired (or absent) senses often see improvement and refinement of other senses. It seems logical that the brain would attempt to "work around" sensory deficits in order to perceive the world more accurately. I have seen documentaries in which blind individuals are able to develop a method of "echo-locating"using clicking sound they make. By listening very carefully, they are able navigate a space and locate objects using only their sense of hearing. I would be interested to see the ways cross-modal neuroplasticity is involved in the development of these echo-location skills.

    Bradley Sarasin (Group 3)

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  2. The brain is an amazing body part! Its capabilities are unbelievable and I feel like we still only know a fraction of all that there is to know about the brain and how it truly works! I read an article about this artist that was blind but still able to create these absolutely stunning paintings by using his other sense, like touch to make a 3d outline with puffy paint and then went back with color. I think this also goes to show that one's attitudes and mind set can have a huge affect of what that person is able to accomplish, no matter the disability or difference they may have!

    -Kelsey Morrison (group 2)

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  3. How the brain can rework itself that way is amazing! Studying the brain can lead to so many fascinating discoveries. My great-grandpa was blind and he had unbelievable hearing and we always thought that was genetic but maybe that had to do something with his brain! I wonder if the brain compensates the same way for people who are born blind and for the people who go blind later in life.

    -Emily Mueller (Group 2)

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    1. The way I understand it is that parts of the brain, which includes those that control vision, are able to change and rewire themselves no matter if you were born blind or if it were to happen later in life. There are parts that can only change during certain periods but those controlling vision remain plastic throughout life.

      Cole DiStasio (Group 1)

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  4. This post was very interesting! I think it is beautiful that the brain can work around impairments and create a different way to interpret the world around us. This reminded me of some Autistic children that have increased visual abilities at a young age. My grandfather has volunteered for Autistic organizations for many years. He always is fascinated by the superior abilities the children have although they are disabled. I wonder if their brain has compensated for a loss of a certain ability. This would be an interesting topic to research further!

    Cara Murphy (3)

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  5. This ability is just another reason why the brain is such an amazing structure. The plasticity of the brain can be seen in many ways. For example, we are born with many neurons for many functions, but it's the functions we use that get strengthened while the others fade away. This is the case for many of the sounds that are heard in different languages. Newborns possess all the neurons needed to make any sound in any language, but when they adapt to the language they are exposed to, the excess sounds are lost.

    -Chris Richard (Group 3)

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    1. That's something I didn't even think of when researching this topic. The fact that this isn't only the case for those with disabilities but applies to everyone and all of our brains are losing certain functions that we don't use is really interesting.

      Cole DiStasio (Group 1)

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  6. I think it is amazing what the brain is capable of doing. The fact that the brain is able to rewire itself to work around impairments is incredible. I would love to learn more about the brain because it is the most important part of the body. It is responsible for so many different things. It is a powerful tool. This topic would be great for more research in the future.

    Rebecca Thomas

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  7. The power of the brain and its ability to enhance senses when others are terminated prove something supernatural. I am a huge brain fan and I love the studies done behind it. I am curious to see how the application of brain enhancing factors can save people with diminished site or hearing.

    -Michael Sheikhai

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  8. This is incredible, the brain is truly an amazing organ. To be able to fix itself and understand what needs to be done, is something that (in my opinion) goes beyond human understanding. Of course researching can be conducted in order to understand what's going on, however the brain is such a complex organ that it may to centuries to completely understand a portion.

    David Mota

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