UCLA LogoWe often wonder as to how blind people navigate through busy roads with just a cane for their support. Well, to answer this question UCLA experts propose that in at least few situations, blindness could enhance other senses, thereby aiding individuals to adjust. Now scientists have apparently verified that blindness could cause structural alterations in the brain, therefore signifying that the brain may restructure itself functionally in order to adjust to a loss in sensory input.

Experts discovered that visual areas of the brain were supposedly smaller in volume in visually impaired people as compared to sighted ones. Nevertheless, for non-visual regions, the trend was apparently inverted i.e. they supposedly grew bigger in the blind. The researchers claim that the brains of blind people are apparently balancing for the decreased volume in regions usually dedicated to vision.

“This study shows the exceptional plasticity of the brain and its ability to reorganize itself after a major input — in this case, vision — is lost. In other words, it appears the brain will attempt to compensate for the fact that a person can no longer see, and this is particularly true for those who are blind since early infancy, a developmental period in which the brain is much more plastic and modifiable than it is in adulthood,” commented Natasha Lepore, a postgraduate researcher at UCLA’s Laboratory of Neuro Imaging.

The scientists apparently applied a tremendously responsive kind of brain imaging known as tensor-based morphometry, which could identify extremely subtle alterations in brain volume, to inspect the brains of three dissimilar groups. The first one is those who lost their sight prior to the age of 5, the second is those who lost their sight post 14 years and a control group of sighted people. After matching against the two groups of blind people, it was apparently discovered that loss and gain of brain matter supposedly depended a lot when the blindness took place.

It was seen that only the early-blind group varied considerably from the control group in the region of the brain’s corpus callosum that apparently assists in the broadcast of visual information between the two hemispheres of the brain. The scientists propose that this may be because of the decreased quantity of myelination in the nonattendance of visual input. Myelin, the fatty sheaf that apparently encloses nerves and enables speedy communication, supposedly grows quite fast in the extremely young. When the beginning of blindness takes place in adolescence or later, the development of myelin is already comparatively finished, so the structure of the corpus callosum may not be powerfully impacted by the loss of visual input.

In both blind groups, nevertheless, the researchers apparently discovered considerable swelling in regions of the brain not in charge for vision. For instance, the frontal lobes, which are caught up with, among other things, working memory, were supposedly found to be unusually enlarged, possibly providing an anatomical basis for some of blind individuals’ improved skills.

Preceding researches have apparently discovered that when walking down a corridor with windows, the blind are proficient in sensing the windows’ presence since they could feel slight alterations in temperature and apparently differentiate between the auditory echoes caused by walls and windows.

This research would be published in the January issue of the journal NeuroImage.