Congenitally deaf cats recently lent insight into the plasticity of human brains (click here for that post), and a recent study conducted by the UCLA Department of Neurology has confirmed that “blindness causes structural changes in the brain, indicating that the brain may reorganize itself functionally in order to adapt to a loss in sensory input” (Science Daily).
Natasha Leporé, a postgraduate researcher at UCLA’s Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, along with her colleagues, confirmed that “visual regions of the brain were smaller in volume in blind individuals than in sighted ones” (Science Daily). As it turns out, “blindness can heighten other senses, helping individuals adapt” to the loss of one very valuable source of sensory input. In non-visual areas, however, the trend was reversed: areas of the brain that weren’t involved in visual processes were larger in blind individuals, suggesting that “the brains of blind individuals are compensating for the reduced volume in areas normally devoted to vision.”
The study focused on three groups: individuals that lost sight before the age of five; individuals that lost sight after the age of 14; and a control group of sighted individuals. Both blind groups demonstrated “significant enlargement in areas of the brain not responsible for vision.” The frontal lobes, for example, which are involved with working memory, among other things, were significantly enlarged.
Leporé stated, “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. 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.”
As noted by Leporé, infancy and early childhood are the most ideal times for intervention because the brain can easily modify itself to compensate for certain losses. Brainjogging was created to encourage neurological development; if not for the brain’s plasticity, new neurological development could not occur. Brainjogging facilitates new neurons’ growth and strengthens existing neural connections, enabling individuals with learning disabilities to retrain their brains to compensate for whatever deficits their learning disability may create.