Journal of Psychiatry and Brain Functions

Journal of Psychiatry and Brain Functions

ISSN 2055-3447
Review

Using structural and functional brain imaging to uncover how the brain adapts to blindness

Gabriella V. Hirsch, Corinna M. Bauer and Lotfi B. Merabet*

*Corresponding author: Lotfi B. Merabet lotfi_merabet@meei.harvard.edu

The Laboratory for Visual Neuroplasticity, Department of Ophthalmology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School. Boston, MA, USA.

Abstract

Advances in neuroimaging technology have been instrumental in uncovering the dramatic neurological changes that result from blindness, as well as revealing the inner workings of the human brain. Specifically, modern imaging techniques enable us to examine how the brain adapts and "re-wires" itself as a result of changes in behavior, the environment, injury, or disease; a process referred to as neuroplasticity. Following an overview of commonly employed neuroimaging techniques, we discuss structural and functional neuroplastic brain changes associated with profound visual deprivation. In particular, we highlight how associated structural changes often occur within areas that process intact senses (such as hearing, touch, and smell) while functional changes tend to implicate areas of the brain normally ascribed to the processing of visual information. Evidence will primarily focus on profound blindness due to ocular cause, but related work in cerebral/cortical visual impairment (CVI) will also be discussed. The potential importance of these findings within the context of education and rehabilitation is proposed.

Keywords: Plasticity, blindness, neuroimaging, MRI, crossmodal processing, ocular blindness, cortical visual impairment

ISSN 2055-3447
Volume 2
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