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People born deaf can develop super-vision
London, Oct 11 (IANS):
Published on 11 Oct. 2010 11:31 PM IST
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People born deaf can develop a kind of super-vision to compensate for lost hearing.
Scientists believe the brain adapts to the loss of hearing by rewiring itself to improve sight.
Parts of the brain that normally locate sound can learn to do the same job with vision instead.
Researchers stumbled on the discovery by studying cats - the only creature besides humans that can be born congenitally deaf, reports the Telegraph.
People who are born deaf or blind often report their remaining senses receiving a boost, according to the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Some experts believe that losing one sense early in life at a time when nerve connections are still being made allows the brain to rewire itself to compensate.
In deaf cats, scientists found brain regions that usually handle input from hearing become reorganised.
The area of the brain that would normally pick up peripheral sound can be rewired to boost peripheral vision.
Consequently, deaf cats and probably humans born deaf have a much improved ability to observe moving objects.
Study leader Stephen Lomber from the Centre for Brain and Mind at the University of Western Ontario, Canada said: “The brain is very efficient, and doesn’t let unused space go waste.”
“The brain wants to compensate for the lost sense 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 conducting the research to improve understanding of how the brain handles cochlear implants, devices that can help the profoundly deaf hear again.

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