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The Human Visual Cortex Can Do Language, Too

Brain scanning technology is teaching us how very versatile or brains are. For example, what is happening in the visual cortices of people who have been blind since birth? A series of experiments in which blind subjects were monitored while performing different linguistic exercises show that those parts of our brains are put to work for other tasks!

In the brains of people blind from birth, structures used in sight are still put to work — but for a very different purpose. Rather than processing visual information, they appear to handle language.

Linguistic processing is a task utterly unrelated to sight, yet the visual cortex performs it well.

“It suggests a kind of plasticity that’s even broader than the kinds observed before,” said Marina Bedny, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s a really drastic change. It suggests there isn’t a predetermined function an area can serve. It can take a wide range of possible functions.”

Brains: use ‘em if you got ‘em! Link

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March 2nd, 2011

Stranger to the World


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