MadSci Network: Neuroscience

Re: Can a person train their brain?

Date: Tue Jan 11 11:43:53 2000
Posted By: Tom Stickel, Grad student, Optometry, Indiana University School of Optometry
Area of science: Neuroscience
ID: 946594821.Ns

Hey John,
  Interesting question.  Our brains are surprisingly trainable when it 
comes to perceptions.  But as far as being able to recognize a blind spot 
consciously, I think that would be a bit difficult to do.  The first 
problem is that you only have a blind spot when you close one eye.  When 
both eyes are open, your right eye can see the place where you have the 
blind spot in your left eye, and vice versa.  Now, if you close one eye, 
you'll be able to appreciate your blind spot.  However, your brain is wired 
to "fill in" your blind spot with the same color as whatever object is 
surrounding it, which is pretty amazing.  So, when you do the old blind 
spot trick by making an X disappear on a sheet of paper, the place where 
the X was becomes pure white.  But you can't make actually make it appear 
black.  Your brain will fill in what it thinks is appropriate.  If you 
practice and find where your blind spot is, however, you'll soon be able to 
put things in it make them "disappear."
  As far as training a baby not to have its brain reverse and flip images, 
let's do a little background stuff first.  An image is reversed and flipped 
as it passes through the optics of the eye.  The brain then has to reverse 
and flip it back to normal.  
  You could try to train a baby's brain to not reverse and flip images, but 
the training wouldn't last very long.  Experiments have been done in which 
people wear special glasses that make the world appear upside down and 
backward.  What happens?  Well, at first the people fall down, bump into 
things, etc,  In a few days, though, everything seems perfectly normal.  
Their brains have learned to double-reverse and double-flip everything they 
see from the eyes.  Nifty, eh?
  When you take the glasses off, the people bump into things and fall down 
again for a few days while their brains get used to working in the normal 
way.  They definitely go back to normal, though.  
  So, you can train your brain to do a lot of things.  But in the end, your 
brain will put together the info it gets from your eyes with the info it 
gets from all your other senses and puts things back where they belong.
  Hope that answers your question!


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