Does blindness heighten other senses?
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Today in our team meeting we discussed the case of a young boy who had a problem with his left eye.
He was given an eye patch to wear over his right eye in an attempt to force his left eye to work harder and effectively cure itself. The issue was however that the child's doctors had not appreciated that the child was virtually blind in his left eye due to an untreatable condition, and so for the three years or so during which he had been made to wear the eye patch, he had therefore been unable to see at all.
This then led us to consider whether the boy's other senses would have become more acute during that time in order to compensate for his loss of vision. It was therefore a bit of a coincidence when I also came across this article today.
The article explains that inflicting temporary blindness appears to lead to heightened hearing, as the other senses seem to develop to compensate. A study on mice was carried out in America, whereby the mice were kept in a darkened room for a week. As a result their hearing was enhanced so that they were able to hear softer sounds and there were also changes to the structure of the auditory cortex in their brain. It is hoped that the same principle may in the future be used to treat deafness in humans.
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