“Mind-blowing” study of people born with one hand reveals scientists have misunderstood how the brain works for centuries

 

A study of people born with one hand suggests that areas of the brain are organised by functions rather than individual body parts. The finding could fundamentally change our understanding of how the brain works and therefore how we treat brain injuries

  • Study suggests brain areas are organised by functions rather than body parts
  • This could fundamentally change our understanding of how the brain works
  • Study looked at one-handed people as they performed different tasks
  • The area of the brain associated with the subjects’ missing hand was activated when they used different body parts

    A ‘mind-blowing’ discovery has been made about the way the human brain works.

    A study of people born with one hand suggests that areas of the brain are organised by functions rather than individual body parts.

    The finding could fundamentally change our understanding of how the brain works and therefore how we treat brain injuries.

Dr Tamar Makin, a neuroscientist at University College London, said that the new theory could have ‘massive implications’ if proved correct.

She added that it was ‘mind-blowing’ to think that scientists could have been mistaken for so long.

An international team of researchers studied the brain activity of people born with one hand as they performed basic tasks such as wrapping a present or handling money.

The team found that the area of the brain associated with the subjects’ missing hand was activated when they used different body parts such as the mouth, foot or arm.

Importantly, this also happened when two-handed people used these other body parts to perform the same tasks.

This suggests that the brain is not organised in a way that links certain areas to certain body parts as previously thought.

 

Instead, different areas of the brain are responsible for different functions.

Dr Makin said: ‘If true, this means we’ve been misinterpreting brain organisation based on body part, rather than based on function.

‘It’s kind of mind blowing for me to think we could have been getting this wrong for so long.

Researchers studied the brain activity of people born with one hand as they performed basic tasks such as wrapping a present. The team found that the area of the brain associated with the subjects’ missing hand was activated when they used different body parts

The study, she explained, suggested that ‘the hand area is not the hand area per se, but just the part of the brain in charge of function “normally” carried by that hand.’

‘In intact participants, all this is carried by the non-dominant hand,’ Dr Makin said.

‘But the fact that we see such a striking different representation in that area in congenital one-handers might suggest that this is not actually the hand area.’

She cautioned, however, that it is still just a working theory at this point.

Dr Makin’s hope is to find a way to encourage the brain to represent and control artificial body parts, such as a prosthetic arm, using the brain area that would have controlled the missing hand.

‘If we, as neuroscientists, could harness this process, we could provide a really powerful tool to better healthcare and society,’ she said.

‘Unfortunately, this process is currently quite restricted in the brains of adults. But by learning how this occurs spontaneously in one-handers, we can get a handle on what we might be able to achieve.’

Link Original: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4431990/Mind-blowing-discovery-finds-brain-organised-function.html?ITO=applenews

 

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