“Rewiring” Another Name for Plasticity
Perhaps you’ve come across the story of Terry Wallis, an Arkansas man who emerged from a coma after twenty years. The media is portraying this is an unprecedented, unexpected event, but in reality, it’s just research catching up with theory.
Paul Bach-y-Rita, MD, is a pioneer in the field of brain plasticity. He theorized about the brain’s capacity to restructure itself, and today he’s taken his ideas one step further:
“The brain is capable of major reorganization of function at all ages, and for many years following brain damage. It is also capable of adapting to substitute sensory information following sensory loss (such as blindness; tactile loss in Leprosy; damaged vestibular system due to ototoxicity, or general balance deficit as result of stroke or brain trauma), providing a suitable human-machine interface is used. One such interface is the tongue BrainPort interface. Sensory substitution allows studies of the mechanisms of late brain plasticity, in addition to offering the possibility of practical solutions for persons with major sensory loss potentially including persons with spinal cord injury.”
As brain imaging technology provides us with greater details about the cellular workings of the brain, we’re discovering an internal universe for more mysterious and than we have dreamed.