Adult brain is not hardwired


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For many years it was believed that the possibilities of reorganization in the adult brain are negligible. However, more and more studies suggests that adult brain plasticity is surprisingly high and may even lead to the adoption of completely new functions by areas fulfilling usually another tasks.

According to textbooks, we can distinguish brain areas dedicated to specific roles. We have for example visual, tactile, auditory or motor cortices. However, more and more research indicates that the adult brain is so liable that it can exchange tasks between areas. An example would be the visual cortex of blind people, which in the absence of visual stimuli, "reprograms" itself to tactile reading (Braille). There are also known examples of functional reorganization of brain after injuries. However, it was not known whether such a global "reprogramming" can occur in the brains of healthy adults.

Group of Dr. Marcin Szwed from the Jagiellonian University has just published the results of study in which, for the first time in the history, scientists show that a functional reorganization of healthy adults brain is possible. The results were published in eLife journal. During the research a group of healthy, sighted people were taught to read Braille by touch. Before and after several months of training, the participants were examined using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). According to the textbooks, tactile reading should activate the tactile cortex, but after a nine-month of training it activated the visual, not tactile cortex. Furthermore, people fluently reading by touch, during a temporary "deactivation" of the visual cortex by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), were unable to read this way. Authors suggest that this type of reorganization may be also possible in other brain areas. The results of this study show that experience and intense training are able to fundamentally change the functioning of our own brains.

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