Thursday, 15 December 2011

Our exceptional brain (continued)

As discussed in our earlier blog, Neuro-what-ology, neuropsychology has evolved along with our burgeoning understanding of the human brain. Two recent studies further illuminate the complexity and awesomeness of this vital organ, and the relationship between brain and behaviour.

Studies such as these are vital to the practice of neuropsychology as they help inform assessment practices and treatment programs and assist with interpretation of results.

Also, they make a great dinner party conversation topic!

Thanks to Karen Wallace, Clinical Neuropsychologist, and fellow ANTSer for sniffing out these great articles.

eye brain connection, synaesthesia and the visual cortex

Synaesthesia and the visual cortex

The first study concerns synaesthesia – a condition where people experience a sense separate to the one being stimulated, such as seeing colours while reading words. Dr Devin Terhune and colleagues from the University of Oxford in the UK found that there is a "fundamental" difference between the brains of people with and without synaesthesia.

People with synaesthesia appear to have an overactive visual cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for processing visual information, located in the Occipital lobe at the back of the brain.

Primary Visual Cortex

Over time, this overactivity appears to create changes in the regions of the brain responsible for processing information about letters, colours and numbers during development.

The researchers stimulated the visual cortex of individuals with and without synaesthesia by producing a magnetic field from a coil applied to the scalp. In both cases stimulation resulted in ‘phosphenes’, or flashes of light or other visual images, but those individuals without the condition required three times greater stimulation in order to experience phosphenes.

The researchers hoped that the findings could be used to reduce or eliminate synaesthesia, or even to train those without it to learn digit or word-colour associations, which could be useful when studying mathematics, English or music.

The study was published on November 18, 2011 in Current Biology.

If you’d like to read about the second study, stay tuned...and visit our blog again next week.

If you’d like more information about Advanced Neuropsychological Treatment Services, please visit our website or contact us via our online enquiry form.

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