Study reveals heightened sense of touch in people deaf from birth

Last update on Dec, 04, 2017

People who are deaf from birth process the sense of touch differently in their brains than those who are born with normal hearing, a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience has revealed. 

The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, described how the early loss of a sense affects brain development and demonstrates that the brain is "capable of rewiring in dramatic ways".

Early loss of a sense affects brain development

According to the study, when the auditory cortex of profoundly deaf people is not exposed to sounds, it takes on additional processing tasks - which may explain why many people who are born deaf develop better peripheral vision and ability to sense motion. It is believed that the findings may support new ways to teach deaf students mathematics and reading using touch-sensitive tools, as well as helping doctors to improve the quality of hearing after cochlear implantation.

"We designed this study because we thought that touch and vision might have stronger interactions in the auditory cortices of deaf people," said Dr Christina M Karns of the University of Oregon." As it turns out, the primary auditory cortex in people who are profoundly deaf focuses on touch, even more than vision, in our experiment."

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