Blind World

Area of brain helps the blind use language.

October 17, 2004.
The Hartford Courant.

An area of the brain that usually processes visual information helps the blind to use language, according to a new study in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Researchers at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke gave both blind and sighted people word tests while they disrupted activity in the visual cortex with magnetic signals.

The subjects were asked to quickly come up with an appropriate verb to match a noun, such as "eat" when given the word "apple."

In people who could see, the disruption had no effect on the ability to perform the task. But the blind had a difficulty in coming up with the right word.

The scientists were interested in investigating brain plasticity -- or how brains adapt to disabilities.

The subjects in the study had been blind since birth and researchers say it was unknown whether the visual cortex in the brains of people who lose their sight later in life are also involved in language processing.

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