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Deafness & Brain Structure

November 23, 2016

The brain architecture for processing sound is the same in deaf people as in hearing people.



The brain’s hearing network. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Brain structures that process sounds are organized no differently in people who are born deaf than in people who can hear. This according to Harvard neuroscientist Ella Striem-Amit. She and her colleagues mapped connectivity patterns in the brain’s auditory cortex of both hearing and deaf people.

ELLA STRIEM-AMIT (Harvard University):

We were very surprised to find that even people who were born profoundly deaf still showed that same type of auditory cortex organization that we typically find in hearing people.


She reported at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience that instead, these connections likely develop well before birth, requiring no auditory input. And if the structure is already in place, it may one day be possible to restore hearing even to adults. But she cautions that in the meantime, parents should have their children tested for hearing impairments early on. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

The research appears in Nature Scientific Reports.

Story by Susanne Bard