The brain as a flexible task machine: Implications for visual rehabilitation using noninvasive vs. invasive approaches

Lior Reich, Shachar Maidenbaum, Amir Amedi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose of review: The exciting view of our brain as highly flexible task-based and not sensory-based raises the chances for visual rehabilitation, long considered unachievable, given adequate training in teaching the brain how to see. Recent advances in rehabilitation approaches, both noninvasive, like sensory substitution devices (SSDs) which present visual information using sound or touch, and invasive, like visual prosthesis, may potentially be used to achieve this goal, each alone, and most preferably together. Recent findings: Visual impairments and said solutions are being used as a model for answering fundamental questions ranging from basic cognitive neuroscience, showing that several key visual brain areas are actually highly flexible, modality-independent and, as was recently shown, even visual experience-independent task machines, to technological and behavioral developments, allowing blind persons to 'see' using SSDs and other approaches. Summary: SSDs can be potentially used as a research tool for assessing the brain's functional organization; as an aid for the blind in daily visual tasks; to visually train the brain prior to invasive procedures, by taking advantage of the 'visual' cortex's flexibility and task specialization even in the absence of vision; and to augment postsurgery functional vision using a unique SSD-prostheses hybrid. Taken together the reviewed results suggest a brighter future for visual neuro-rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-95
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Opinion in Neurology
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • blindness
  • brain organization
  • multisensory integration
  • sensory substitution
  • vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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