August 2012

Brain research: Can neurons be retrained?

What does the new brain research mean?

Do you remember phrenology?

Phrenology was pseudo science that centered on the view that different parts of the brain had different functions. This is similar to what researchers believe today. However, the primary difference between phrenology and what researchers believe now is that phrenologists thought “researchers” could learn a significant amount about a person by the shape of the person’s skull. Today we know that the shape of the skull doesn’t determine what function the brain has, but we do know that different parts of the brain known as neurons are used for different functions.

Researchers today are now studying what the neurons are used for once one function is lost. If a person goes blind, for example, that function can be used to enhance the auditory portion of the brain so that the person may find things auditorily. The same is true in deaf people; the neurons in the brain normally dedicated to auditory functions can be used for other things.

The research seems to indicate it’s possible to either retrain or rewire the brain after certain functions and/or senses are lost. Studies like this may be groundbreaking for people in the near future. In addition, this research may lead to other kinds of brain research about the use of neurons and the developing of neurons for different functions.