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Lost Sight, Found Sound: Visual cortex sees way to acquiring new duties

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8:05am, January 26, 2005

Brain areas that are usually devoted solely to vision take on new duties following severe or total sight loss, two new brain-imaging studies suggest. In some cases, that switch occurred even when blindness arose after early childhood

For some children who go blind, parts of their brains that would otherwise have handled visual tasks end up pinpointing the origins of nearby sounds, report neuroscientist Franco Lepore of the University of Montreal and his colleagues.

"It's clear that the visual cortex participates in enhanced sound localization for certain people with early-onset blindness," Lepore says. "We don't yet know how this type of reorganization occurs in the brain."

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