Hacking Your Senses

When I was in University I wrote a paper comparing the neuroplastisty of the child and adult human brain. The research indicated that the childs brain was better at recovering and relocating functioning from a damaged area if the amount of damage was large. The adult and child brain were about equal for small amounts of damage. The paper wasn’t very well received because it went against the traditional understanding that neuroplasticity effectively stops around age 12. Regardless, I learned something even if it was only that the adult brain can relocate brain functioning if it receives a small injury.

A lot has happened in the years since I graduated. The Internet exploded and information about everything is available all the time. Undoubtedly, the consumption of information is going to have an impact on me. It’s going to increase the amount interconnection between the brain cells because I will be learning a lot more (the interconnection between brain cells is one of the outcomes of increased learning) assuming I choose to consume the information.

Recall my post about the Maclean.ca article on Keeping Your Brain Functioning All Life Long, the one that reveals that even adults in their senior years can improve their brain function and take years off their mental age? That means I’m right in thinking that the impact of the Internet will continue to impact my brain well into my life, given that constant use helps to prevent mental aging.

But “Mixed Feelings” by Sunny Bains in Wired.com adds another layer of complexity and optimism to the mix. The article reveals recent research findings that our brains are able to hack our senses by interrepting information from on sense modality that codes for something else entirely – they talk about using a belt rigged with a number of vibrators and having the one that is pointing north shake. This will allow the wearer to know which way they are facing; basically giving the user a directional sense by hacking their sense of touch. It’s very interesting. What’s more, the directional information becomes part of the users consciousness and eventually unconsciousness. The constant influx of information will promote neural branching as the brain adapts. The brain is going to grow more dense in area that is devoted to sensing this directional ability. Wow!

To draw this back to my paper, if the adult brain has the ability relocate function in response to small brain injuries, does it have this ability to relocate function even if their is no injury? More so, what will it do with this new information that comes in that indicates something other than the raw sensory experience?

Further, what is the potential for sense hacking with a young brain given that it does have better neuroplasticity for large brain injuries? What impact will this have on developing neural density or even on localizing new sense functions to other unused regions of the brain?