Neuroplasticity and Three Blind Mice

Mouse Three blind mice might hear a heck of a lot better than three normal mice. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Neuron. Even in just one week, mice kept in total darkness had rewired their brains with more auditory connections and the ability to process sounds faster and stronger than normal mice.

That’s the amazing thing about neuroplasticity. Our brains adapt and change, no matter how old we are. The mice in the study were adult mice, not youngsters, so there’s hope for all of us, regardless of our age.

The most exciting part is that these changes were happening in adults, since it is long known that the adult brain is less plastic than a child’s,” said Hey-Kyoung Lee, a Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist and co-author of the study. She told The Washington Post,   “We were really, really shocked.

Lee and her collaborator, University of Maryland biologist Patrick Kanold, also tested what would happen with mice deprived of hearing. They got similar results. More connections were made between the thalamus and the visual cortex, strengthening the sense of sight.  Their study adds additional proof that our brains are not set in stone in adulthood, but remain moldable throughout life.

That’s another reason to start a daily practice of meditation. If we make meditation a regular habit – in a sense turning off our normal sight and looking instead within, we can reap the benefits of neuroplasticity and change our brains for the better. You can read about the mice blindness study here.