Neural reorganisation as a consequence of congenital deafness
10:00-11:00 Friday 4th November 2016, Seminar room 4, Main Building
The extraordinary capacity of the brain for functional and structural reorganisation is known as neural plasticity. Understanding this phenomenon not only provides insights into the capabilities of the brain, but also into its potential for adaptation and enhancement, with applications for sensorimotor substitution, artificial intelligence, policy and education.
In cases of congenital sensory deprivation, it is assumed that cortices of the affected sense process information from other senses. Studies of auditory deprivation and language experience also have a significant social impact, given that they can inform health and educational policies in adults and children. Here, I will present evidence from the study of congenital deafness in humans, showing that plasticity mechanisms result in the auditory cortex not only responding to vision and somatosensation, but also being recruited for higher-order cognitive functions such as working memory. I will discuss the anatomical and functional framework that support these plastic changes, its consequences on behaviour and its implications for interventions.