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Studying The Capacity For Change in The Adult Brain

It is well established that a child's brain has a remarkable capacity for change, but controversy continues about the extent to which such plasticity exists in the adult human primary sensory cortex. Now, neuroscientists from MIT and Johns Hopkins University have used converging evidence from brain imaging and behavioral studies to show that the adult visual cortex does indeed reorganize-and that the change affects visual perception. The study appears online in an advance publication of the Journal of Neuroscience.

The authors believe that as scientists find ways to use this adaptive ability, the work could have relevance to topics ranging from learning to designing interventions for improving recovery following stroke, brain injury, or visual disorders.

Animal studies conducted two decades ago and using single cell recording of neurons found that the adult animal brain can change, but shed little information about the adult human brain. In 2005, a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study led by Professor Nancy Kanwisher at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT found evidence of plasticity in the visual cortex of adults with macular degeneration, an eye disease that deprives regions of the cortex of visual information. But another fMRI study of macular degeneration found no such evidence, and an animal study using both single cell recordings and fMRI also questioned the 20-year-old animal work.

Click here to see the rest of this article in Medical News Today


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