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科学美国人60秒: 盲人的大脑也以类似的方式适应社会

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Brains of Blind People Adapt in Similar Fashion
 盲人的大脑也以类似的方式适应社会
 
The human brain is remarkably adaptable, constantly being shaped by life experience. A striking example is that in blind people, the brain’s visual cortex is repurposed for auditory tasks—such as detecting motion and pinpointing where a sound is coming from. But its adopted functions could be even more complex.
 
人类的大脑具有很强的适应能力,不断受到生活经验的影响。一个显著的例子是,在盲人中,大脑的视觉皮层被重新用于听觉任务——比如检测运动和确定声音的来源。但它采用的功能可能更复杂。
 
“And the question is, well: How much can this part of the brain change its function in people who were born blind?”Johns Hopkins cognitive neuroscientist Marina Bedny. She and her team had blind and sighted volunteers listen to audio clips from entertaining movies while undergoing functional MRI scans of their brains. The goal was to find out if, among blind people, the visual cortex is activated consistently for complex auditory tasks.
 
“现在的问题是:先天失明的人的这部分大脑能在多大程度上改变其功能?”约翰霍普金斯大学的认知神经学家玛丽娜贝德尼说。她和她的团队让失明和有视力的志愿者听娱乐电影的音频剪辑,同时对他们的大脑进行功能性核磁共振扫描。研究的目的是找出盲人的视觉皮层在处理复杂的听觉任务时是否一直处于激活状态。
 
“So we take brain activity in one person, and we correlate it to brain activity in another person. It gives you a way to directly compare how similar the processing of two brains is when they’re listening to a given stimulus. And so that can tell us, for example, whether the visual cortices of different blind people are doing the same thing at the same time.”
 
“所以我们把一个人的大脑活动与另一个人的大脑活动联系起来。它为你提供了一种直接比较两个大脑在听给定刺激时的相似程度的方法。例如,它可以告诉我们,不同盲人的视觉皮质是否在同一时间做同一件事。”
 
The result?
 结果呢?
 
“You get massive synchrony over something like 65 percent of the occipital lobe, which is a lot of cortical territory.”
 
“你会在大约65%的枕叶上得到大规模的同步,这是大量的皮质区域。”
 
In other words, in blind participants, most areas of the visual cortex were activated at the same time by the movie audio.
 
换句话说,在盲人中,视觉皮层的大部分区域同时被电影音频激活。
 
But the visual cortices of sighted people didn’t show consistent activation. What’s more, the similarities became much less pronounced among the blind participants when the movie clips were scrambled and became meaningless. That finding suggests the visual cortex isn’t just acting like a simple sound processor.
 
但是正常人的视觉皮质并没有表现出一致的激活。更重要的是,当电影片段被打乱并变得毫无意义时,相似之处在盲人参与者中变得不那么明显了。这一发现表明,视觉皮层不仅仅是一个简单的声音处理器。
 
“And that’s important because it means that this brain region likely went from being a low-level sensory area to behaving like a higher cognitive area, which suggests a very extreme level of reorganization and plasticity.” The study appears in the Journal of Neuroscience. Further research will investigate other ways in which life experiences may profoundly shape cognitive function, from reading braille to programming computers.
 
“这很重要,因为这意味着这个大脑区域很可能从一个低级的感觉区域变成了一个高级的认知区域,这意味着一个非常极端的重组和可塑性。”这项研究发表在《神经科学杂志》上。进一步的研究将探索生活经验可能深刻影响认知功能的其他方式,从阅读盲文到编程计算机。
 

 
Brains of Blind People Adapt in Similar Fashion
 
The human brain is remarkably adaptable, constantly being shaped by life experience. A striking example is that in blind people, the brain’s visual cortex is repurposed for auditory tasks—such as detecting motion and pinpointing where a sound is coming from. But its adopted functions could be even more complex.
 
“And the question is, well: How much can this part of the brain change its function in people who were born blind?”Johns Hopkins cognitive neuroscientist Marina Bedny. She and her team had blind and sighted volunteers listen to audio clips from entertaining movies while undergoing functional MRI scans of their brains. The goal was to find out if, among blind people, the visual cortex is activated consistently for complex auditory tasks.
 
“So we take brain activity in one person, and we correlate it to brain activity in another person. It gives you a way to directly compare how similar the processing of two brains is when they’re listening to a given stimulus. And so that can tell us, for example, whether the visual cortices of different blind people are doing the same thing at the same time.”
 
The result?
 
“You get massive synchrony over something like 65 percent of the occipital lobe, which is a lot of cortical territory.”
 
In other words, in blind participants, most areas of the visual cortex were activated at the same time by the movie audio.
 
But the visual cortices of sighted people didn’t show consistent activation. What’s more, the similarities became much less pronounced among the blind participants when the movie clips were scrambled and became meaningless. That finding suggests the visual cortex isn’t just acting like a simple sound processor.
 
“And that’s important because it means that this brain region likely went from being a low-level sensory area to behaving like a higher cognitive area, which suggests a very extreme level of reorganization and plasticity.” The study appears in the Journal of Neuroscience. [Rita Loiotile et al., Naturalistic auditory stories synchronize “visual” cortices across congenitally blind but not sighted individuals]Further research will investigate other ways in which life experiences may profoundly shape cognitive function, from reading braille to programming computers.


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