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Photo of Michelle Geronimo
  Michelle Geronimo models her peek-proof blindfold

Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone's experiment at Beth Israel Hospital's Clinical Research Center in Boston provides one of the clearest demonstrations yet of the brain's ability to change. He and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health have shown that, remarkably, the visual cortex processes the sense of touch in people born blind. In "The Sight of Touch," Pascual-Leone wonders if sighted people's brains can re-wire themselves the same way.

Michelle Geronimo is among the many sighted people who volunteer to wear a blindfold for 100 hours straight while studying Braille. Which part of her brain handles the new information?

Photo of Alan Blindfolded
Alan lends Michelle some moral support  

To find out, a magnetic shock momentarily confuses Michelle's visual cortex. Comparing her Braille abilities before and after the stimulation confirms Pascual-Leone's hypothesis; the visual cortex indeed pitches in to help process the information now coming in through Michelle's fingertips. Her brain has re-wired itself in just five days. Happily, once the blindfold is removed, her brain quickly reverts to normal.


For more on this topic, see the web feature:
Blinded By Science

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