• Quote of the Day
    "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."
    Nelson Mandela, posted by Daniel

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I watched an interesting PBS program titled Brain Fitness Program (Improving brain function is explored by neuroscientist Michael Merzenich. Narrated by Peter Coyote.) last night on the subject of brain plasticity, which means our brains can adapt to changing situations and re-wire themselves beneficially or detrimentally even as we age. Contrary to previous thinking, neuroplasticity can deposit new neurons and wire new circuits if we stimulate the right kind of new, challenging thought patterns and activities

This program is scheduled to be repeated throughout March 2008 on PBS.

The implications that were discussed included extending our brain-span to match our lifespan, and even to overcome disorders such as OCD and some pain disorders.

An example of such re-programming includes people who lose their sight, and whose visual cortex eventually changes vocation to expand the person's hearing acuity or sense of touch (for reading Braille).

The authors explained how the proof of this re-programming can be seen in brain MRI's of test subjects, as well as other experiments.

Have you had any experience with this concept, either in the scientific literature or by experiencing this kind of re-wiring?
 
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ladylore

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I most definitely have. :) I have been a wheelchair user all my life so I really hadn't noticed of some of the natural way my brain has adapted. However, I started loosing my hearing in my right ear a couple of years ago and I have noticed how I have adapted to that change. I strongly relied on my hearing and now that I am almost deaf in that ear I really noticed the change.

The other way is through the recovery process from substance addiction. Other people of noticed changes in me more then I have. The compulsive thoughts have left, I am cautious now instead of paranoid, more satisfied with my life all the way around. Its been a change that has been interesting to go through.

:goodpost:
 

lallieth

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Does this mean when one person looses a sense they gain another? MY son was born deaf in one ear and he adapted to it very quickly.As a baby he learned he could block out noise by sleeping on his one good ear

As he grew older,his other senses developed more quickly and stronger than the average kid his age..He also learned to play music by ear and can play any piece he hears after 5 mins on keyboard,piano etc..
 

rosedragon

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I have crazy idea.. if someone lose 4 of five senses.. isn't his one sense would be very superior? Because loosing one sense already sharpen other four senses in a high rate normal people can't imagine before witnessing it.
 

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Does this mean when one person looses a sense they gain another

I have just tecently been introduced to this concept and am learning more as I go along.

My limited understanding of this concept is that a person does not actually gain another sense, but rather the portion of the brain usually managing that particular part of the body no longer receives input (neurons firing).

According to the concept of neuroplasticity neurons from other brain functions are redirected to the dormant part of the brain, and with time it is possible for that dormant part of the brain to change its vocation to now manage these re-directed neurons.

There is a phrase used by those studying neuroplasticity which is "what get's fired, gets wired", meaning if neurons are firing in a part of the brain, that part of the brain gets wired.

Because my understanding of this concept is marginal, I welcome any comments or corrections to the statements I have made.
 

ladylore

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I found this on the net. It's an older article (2000), but I thought it may be of interest to you Steve - and others.

Brain Plasticity, Language Processing and Reading

July 2000
Many scientists once believed that as we aged the brain's networks cemented in place. But now an enormous amount of evidence uncovered in the past two decades finds that the brain never stops changing and adjusting. One line of research is showing that this flexibility can help maintain language processing even in the face of severe obstacles. Futhermore, some research suggests that special brain exercises can tap into the brain's adaptive capacities and help people overcome certain language and reading problems.

People who lose their eye-sight do not have to rely on audio novels to fulfill a book obsession. They can learn to read compositions in Braille, a writing composed of raised dots arranged in specific patterns, with their fingertips.

It's one of the benefits of having a plastic brain. That doesn't mean your brain is molded from a high-molecular-weight polymer similar to your toothbrush. It means that the brain is flexible. It compensates for obstacles. It adapts. It adjusts.

Once, researchers believed that only young brains were plastic. They thought that the connections between the brain's neurons developed in the first few years of childhood. Then they became fixed and very hard to change. An enormous amount of animal and human data uncovered in the past two decades, however, confirms that the brain retains its plasticity throughout life.

One line of research provides evidence that older brains can adapt in order to overcome a number of barriers and aid language processing and reading. The new findings are leading to:

  • A better understanding of the many different ways that the brain can process language.
  • Clearer ideas on how children and adults naturally can overcome language-processing obstacles.
  • Insights into how strategies may reroute brain networks and help those with reading, speech or hearing disabilities.
  • Ways to help second-language learners recognize new language sounds and to eliminate accents.

An increasing number of studies detail how the brain naturally reorganizes to overcome language and reading obstacles. For example, one new experiment shows how young and old brain networks modify to handle a loss of sight and process Braille. Researchers photographed the brain activity of individuals who lost their sight either as infants or after age 10 while they thought of a verb that related to a Braille-embossed noun. Like sighted people, the blind activated three brain areas thought to relate to language processing. Those who had been blind since infancy also received some help from the brain areas that normally process visual information in sighted people. Those who had been blinded later in life snagged some extra help from a few of the brain's visual areas as well as the brain's touch areas. The study shows the brain's ability to readjust its circuits to process language -- at any age. It also backs the idea that special brain exercises could tap into the brain's adaptive capacities when it can't do it on its own and could help people regain language functions despite various deficits.

Individuals with the reading disabiltiy, dyslexia, are one group that may benefit from these exercises. Studies show that different types of training techniques sometimes can improve dyslexics' poor reading skills. Many scientists believe that these techniques rework failing language processing networks.

Researchers now are photographing brains before and after intervention trainings to see if this is the case (see images below). Once they catalog the changes, they may be able to pair certain interventions with certain forms of dyslexia.

Adults who learn second languages also may benefit from interventions that are thought to take advantage of brain plasticity. Often, adults have trouble hearing and pronouncing certain non-native sounds. Japanese individuals, for example, can't hear or pronounce the difference between the "r" and "l" English sounds. The words "read" and "lead" sound the same to Japanese individuals. Studies have found, however, that special training techniques can help them overcome this setback. A recent study found that one training approach resulted in improvements in Japanese adults' perception and production of English words with "r" and "l" sounds. The improvements lasted for at least three months.

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Many researchers think that training techniques sometimes can help those with the reading disability, dyslexia, because they modify brain networks. The images above hint that this is the case. The top images show the brain activity (lit-up areas) of a 10 year-old boy while he completes a task that requires the ability to identify the sounds of words. His reading level equaled that of an eight-year-old child. The bottom images show his brain activity while he completes the same task after receiving eight weeks of a type of special training. Following the intervention training, his reading level increased by three years and the images indicate that his brain activity changed as well. Researchers are conducting a very large, ongoing study to confirm this one example.
 

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Thank you Ladylore. I have become fascinated by this subject and am enjoying reading new and older reports, studies and techniques being employed.

It seems that simple repetition is not sufficient, but repetition combined with other physical stimuli will produce new neurons.

IOW doing lots of crossword puzzles is not enough, but learning a new dance, or learning to play a new instrument or some other new skill that combines an intellectual challenge with associated physical dexterity is what it takes.
 

ladylore

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Cool - I knew that learning new skills had something to do with it but not about the dexterity part. It is interesting stuff.
 

lallieth

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As a child I had dyslexia...and the teachers thought it was created when I was in kindergarten and was forced to use my right hand(I was born left handed)not only did I have reading and writing problems,but I also did math all backwards..somehow my brain didnt catch up to the change
 

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