The Adaptable Thinking Machine: Study Shows The Human Brain Rewires Itself
Theres a lot scientists dont know about the human brain. Many of its processes and capabilities remain a mystery. But a recent study reported July, 2007 in the Journal of NeuroScience, funded by cochlear implant manufacturer, Advanced Bionics , indicates that the brain is, indeed, a very adaptable thinking machine capable of taking advantage of the latest in sensory-based technology.
We gather information everyday from our environments data thats processed and stored in the brain. This information, also called stimuli, comes to us through our five senses: taste, touch, hearing, smell and sight. Individuals who experience the loss or impairment of one of these five senses is limited in his or her ability to access stimuli from the environment.
So, an individual who is sight impaired might read in Braille, while an individual with a hearing loss might employ a hearing aid to better interact with sounds being delivered to the brain for processing and storage. Hearing aids, eyeglasses, Braille or books on tape all of these are adaptive technologies designed to improve the individuals ability to pick up data (stimuli) from the environment.
Cochlear implants consist of two parts. An external device with a microphone and digital processor that is worn behind the ear and an implanted device that is not much larger than a quarter and sits just under the skin. The external device is able to pick up sounds in the environment and convert those sound waves into discrete signals. This enables the implanted device to convert the signals into electrical impulses that are then sent to the brain for processing in one of the brains hearing centers.
The brain, a collection of nerve cells and connectors, uses short bursts of low level electricity to function. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Lyon , in France, revealed that the brains of individuals fitted with cochlear implants adapted to the new technology forming sound-processing, hearing patterns similar to those shown by individuals without any hearing impairment.
Hope for the Future
The studys findings provide hope for people who experience profound hearing loss, indicating that cochlear implant technology causes the brain to rewire all of those brain cells and neurons (the cell connectors) to make better use of the stimuli delivered by this advanced technology.
The hope for tomorrow? If the brain can rewire itself to adapt to technological advances in hearing and other sensory-related technology, the benefits of these technologies will expand right along with the increased sophistication of devices intended to improve impairments of other senses as well good news for the hearing health community and the researchers seeking better ways to provide a more natural hearing experience for individuals who have lost the ability to hear through natural means.
And thats good news for all of us.