The UPI (8/28) reports that "sudden and complete loss of vision leads to profound -- but rapidly reversible -- changes in the part of the brain called the visual cortex," according to a study published in the journal PLOS One.
In the Boston Globe's (8/27) White Coat Notes blog, Elizabeth Cooney explained that for the study, researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Massachusetts recruited "32 adults with normal sight" who "were randomly assigned to be completely blindfolded for five days...while an instructor taught them Braille." Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans of "the always-blindfolded people showed higher activity in their visual cortex on day five while their fingers were reading Braille, but once the blindfolds stayed off for a day, those signs of touch-stirring activity in the visual cortex disappeared." The authors concluded that "the brain can rapidly adapt to blindness, compensating for vision loss by shifting connections used for sight to tasks using touch."
According to PsychCentral (8/27, Nauert), the study, which was "funded by grants from the National Eye Institute," not only provides "new insights into how the brain compensates for the loss of sight, but also" suggests "that the brain is more adaptable than originally thought."