The Visual Cortex and Plasticity

Doctor Gul Dolen describes how the brain learns through plasticity, making particular reference to the visual cortex.

The part of the brain that we looked at to describe this plasticity was the visual cortex. The visual cortex is a part of the brain that has been historically studied because you can manipulate the visual environment and then see how changes in a person’s experience end up re-wiring the brain. Hubel and Wiesel did those sorts of experiments and really were the first people to show that the brain re-wires itself during what’s called critical periods. Once it has rewired itself it won’t change those re-wirings again later. That’s an important function of the brain, and it’s one of the things that makes the brain really unique, because you don’t want every function of the brain to be already predetermined when you are born. You want it to be able to change and reorganize itself depending on the environmental circumstances that you happen to be born into, and probably the most familiar example of that is language. For example, I’m of Turkish descent, and if I had all of my language knowledge pre-programmed at birth, even though I was born in the United States where people speak English I would be speaking Turkish and be unable to speak English. But because my brain is plastic I am able to learn the language that is appropriate for my surroundings.

plasticity, learning, hubel, wiesel, visual, cortex, brain, critical period, language, sensory, gul, dolen

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