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Medical Neuroplasticity and blindness

  1. Jun 13, 2009 #1
    Hello everyone,

    I recently read an article in the Guardian (I think) about neuroplasticity- where the brain can adapt to new environments by re-programming different parts to deal with different functions. So if part of the brain is damaged (say by a stroke) then it is possible to "train" an undamaged part to take up the load. I believe this is a correct understanding, although if I'm wrong please correct me.

    They talked about a case study, a woman who had no sense of balance after an accident because the fluid in her ears was damaged, or something along those lines. They had successfully trained a part of her brain to take responses from an electrical signal placed under her tongue and turn these into a way to balance her.

    I've been being very geeky now my exams are over, watching lots of Star Trek, and in the next generation episodes one of the crew is blind and has an electrical visor which allows him to "see". Does anybody know if there has ever been any research into this concept? If you can train the brain to balance using signals under the tongue, could you do something similar but training the brain to recognise visual patterns?

    I'd be interested in anything you have to say, thanks!

    P.S I'm a 3rd year undergrad physics student with an interest in medical physics, so I'm happy with long physics terms but if you're using medical terminology it'd be helpful if you could explain them. Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 13, 2009 #2


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    http://www.normandoidge.com/normandoidge/MAIN.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. Jun 13, 2009 #3
    I remember watching a documentary once about something fairly similar to what you described. There was a woman who was blind due to a congenital disorder, which had developed throught her life, as she used to be able to see. The surgeons connected up about 20 small electrical light receptors to her optic nerve, and she was able to see using them. The images produced were inevitably very blurred and had no detail in them due to the small number of receptors, but she was very happy, as she was at least able to see vague outlines of people moving and to tell whether it was dark or light.
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