People who have been blind from birth use the "visual" part of their brain in order to enhance their sensation of sound and touch, a new study has suggested.
Researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center in the US claim that blind people use specialised modules in the visual cortex that process the spatial location of an object when a person localises it.
According to the specialists, instead of using this area of the brain to understand what the eyes see, blind people use it to process what they hear and touch because the same components are necessary to process information from those senses.
Study lead investigator Dr Josef Rauschecker, professor in the department of physiology and biophysics at the facility, said there was a direct correlation between brain activity and performance in blind people.
"The neural cells and fibres are still there and still functioning, processing spatial attributes of stimuli, driven not by sight but by hearing and touch. This plasticity offers a huge resource for the blind," he explained.
It follows research released by neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania, who have found that the human eye adapts specifically so that it is best suited to capture the world around them.
by Adrian Galbreth