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Blindness boosts hearing ability

By Tim Sandle     Feb 8, 2014 in Science
New research shows that hearing improves in mice that were deprived of visual stimulus for a week. The experiment was designed to measure 'sensory compensation'.
Sensory compensation is a term for when other senses become stronger after one is lost. It has been reported on by many people who lose one sense. To test this, a science team have undertaken some studies on mice.
The study found that the brains of mice kept in a completely dark room for a week showed an increase in activity in the part of the brain used to process sound. To show this, the researchers used electrophysiology to measure responses to sound in visually deprived and control mice. Auditory neurons in the mice that had been in the dark were more sensitive to changes in sound frequency and intensity of tones.
Discussing the study, lead author Hey-Kyoung Lee of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore told NPR: "We were quite surprised to see the changes because there is no known anatomical connection that is directly between these two areas. It happened quite rapidly, which I really did not expect."
According to Voice of America, the authors hope that temporary visual deprivation could help people who receive cochlear implants and have trouble processing the audio information.
The study has been published in the journal Neuron, in a paper titled "Crossmodal Induction of Thalamocortical Potentiation Leads to Enhanced Information Processing in the Auditory Cortex".
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