Resilience and flexibility in the human brain: evidence from cognitive neuroscience studies of blindness

Event Date

Thursday, March 21st, 2019 – 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Assistant Professor Marina Bedny, Johns Hopkins University, Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences


Santani Teng



Flexibility is of the remarkable properties of the human brain. I will describe research on how the human brain does and does not change in response to blindness. On the one hand, meaning representations of people who are blind are very similar to those of people who are sighted. Contrary to the suppositions of empiricist philosophers and some early educational theorist, people who are born blind have cognitive knowledge of color, light, and visual perception that is in many ways similar to that of sighted people. On the other hand, parts of cortex that are believed to have evolved for visual perception change dramatically in response to blindness. I will present evidence for the idea that visual cortices of people blind from birth take on higher-cognitive functions, including language, numerical processing and executive control. This dramatic reorganization occurs during childhood and appears to follow a critical period. Studies of blindness illustrate how the human brain combines flexibility and resilience. 

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