French and Israeli scientists say their new study challenges the currently prevailing view among neuroscientists, which is that different areas of the brain are uniquely responsible for different senses; one area of the brain is responsible for sight, another area is for touch, and so on. In their study, published recently in the Hebrew University Journal of Current Biology, scientists from the Hebrew University and from the University of Paris IV revealed that people who are blind from birth and who read Braille – using the sense of touch – activate the same part of the brain activated by people who read – sight.
They say this finding strengthens the argument that the central distribution in the brain is according to tasks – reading, rather than seeing, for example – a claim which is now a minority position among the neuroscience community. “The brain is not a sensory organ, although it is often perceived as such,” said Dr. Amir Amedi, who leads the research, from the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at the Hebrew University: “The brain is actually a machine in which each area holds a unique function. In this study we found that the region of the brain responsible for reading is not related to the ability to process data through sight. ”
Dr. Amedi claims that, “according to the approach taught today in medical schools and in cognitive and psychological programs, the Occipital Lobe located in the back of the brain is reserved for vision, and within it there are sub – specialties of different visual functions – face recognition, color, placement of things in the world, reading. According to the classical approach, this region of the brain is active every time you read a book. In this study, we asked what happens when blind people read Braille through their hands.”
The researchers used functional brain imaging (fMRI) to measure the brain neural activity in eight people blind from birth while they read Braille. Dr. Amedi claims, “according to the prevailing hypothesis we were supposed to perceive activity in the Parietal Lobe which processes information from the hands and body.” Instead, researchers discovered that the peak of brain activity occurred in the area of the brain that specializes in reading among people who can see.