Study shows brain uses visual cortex while computing math problems

MRI brain scans showing areas used during math computations for blind and sighted people

A recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University shows that blind people use their brain’s numerical and visual processing areas while performing algebra problems.

The study groups consisted of people who were blind since birth and sighted people who were blindfolded. In the study, sighted participants appeared to only use the numerical computation area of their brain for the problem solving task as shown on the MRI. Blind participants instead used both the numerical and visual processing areas.

The outcome upholds previous research supporting cross-modal plasticity; specifically, when a person lacks one sense, the brain can reallocate some of the area associated with that sense for other kinds of processing.

Shipra Kanjlia, the lead author of the study’s published paper, stated, “The big takeaway is that the brain is really flexible but also really resilient.” The research shows that a person’s own personal experiences may influence which parts of the brain carry out numerical tasks. This information leads to the ides of whether or not the brain can be “remapped” to help those with brain damage or neurological disorders.

The final paper titled, Absence of visual experience modifies the neural basis of numerical thinking, was published on the Johns Hopkins University HUB website for reference.


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