It makes sense that with one sense declines - say eyesight, for example - hearing heightens. At least those have always been the reports. But how true is that really? Researchers at The University of Western Ontario, led by Stephen
Lomber of The Centre for Brain and Mind have discovered there is a
causal link between enhanced visual abilities and reorganization of the
part of the brain that usually handles auditory input in congenitally
The findings, published online in Nature Neuroscience, provide insight into the plasticity that may occur in the brains of deaf people. Using
congenitally deaf cats and hearing cats, Lomber and his team showed that
only two specific visual abilities are enhanced in the deaf: visual
localization in the peripheral field and visual motion detection. They
found the part of the auditory cortex that would normally pick up
peripheral sound enhanced peripheral vision, leading the researchers to
conclude the function stays the same but switches from auditory to
"The brain is very efficient, and doesn't let unused space go to
waste," says Lomber, an associate professor in the Department of
Physiology and Pharmacology at the Schulich School of Medicine &
Dentistry, and Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Social
Science. "The brain wants to compensate for the lost sense with
enhancements that are beneficial.
For example, if you're deaf, you would
benefit by seeing a car coming far off in your peripheral vision,
because you can't hear that car approaching from the side; the same with
being able to more accurately detect how fast something is moving."
According to this story in Science Daily, cats are the only animal besides humans that can
be born deaf. Well, that's simply not true. I believe several species
may be born death, and I know dogs are one. So because the piece has this significant fact wrong, I doubt their science. Still, when one sense is diminished, it seems clear that another is heightened. Since we know this, I'm not sure what the point of the research is.