Blindness and the Developing Brain

Heightened Senses and Ability to Adapt

Brains of the Blind

Blind individuals brains are compensating for the inability to see, the extra space not being used for vision is being used for other senses (University of California, 2009). In this research the age at which a person lost their vision weighed heavily on how much plasticity the brain would display, and how much the brain could actually change and restructure itself. This was dependent upon age, the younger the patient at onset the more plasticity their brain displays. Development of mylein happens at a fairly young age, those who are young when they become blind have more of a chance in their mylein continuing to form and filling the space where their visual input would have been (University of California, 2009). The front lobes of a blind person brain were found to be abnormally large, this part of the brain is most notably related to working memory. Subtle changes in temperature are felt by blind people, changes that the seeing would likely not feel as their senses are not heightened like those of the blind.
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Difference in Brains of Blind and Seeing People

For a person who is not visually impaired, the action potentials are producted in each eye and are sent along axons to bring visual information to the brain (Breedlove & Watson, p. 299, 2013). This information is brought into the brain on each side via the optic nerve and eventually reaches the visual corex which is part of the occipital lobe in the back of the brain (Breedlove & Watson, p. 300, 2013). A blind person does not utilize their occipital lobe for the same purposes and thus this part of the brain is freed for other senses to be fine tuned and utilized in a magnified manner.
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References

University of California - Los Angeles. (2009, November 19). Blindness causes structural brain changes, implying brain can re-organize itself to adapt.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 16, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091118143259.htm


Breedlove, S.M. & Watson, N. V. (2013). Biological Psychology: An Introduction fo Behavioral, Cognitive, and Clinical Neuroscience. Sinauer: Sunderland, MA.