Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How a (partly) blind brain sees

Our knack for improvisation and workarounds is more than just a way we cope with external problems. It's practiced by our very cells themselves.

It turns out that our brains can reorganize themselves to compensate for loss of eyesight due to macular degeneration. Macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, is a disease that results in damaged retinas and a loss of vision. Because the vision loss occurs in the center of the visual field, the brain makes up for it by using other parts of the visual field to focus.

What does that mean in English? If your brain can't see what's right in front of you, it compensates by getting information from your peripheral vision (or other areas that your eye can focus on) to fill in the blanks. Kind of cool, really.

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The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
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