This will be our kick-off meeting, our first opportunity to get to know each other, for us to let you know about the coming months and for you to tell us about what you would like to learn more about!
During this first the Meetup, we are delighted to announce our speaker for this event: Prof. Olivier Collignon (UCLouvain) which will give a talk on: "Building the brain in the dark"
What does happen to the "visual cortex" of someone born blind? Are these regions unused as they do not receive their preferred sensory input? No. In contrast, I will show that these regions reorganise to process non-visual inputs in an organise fashion. These data shed new light on the old ‘nature versus nurture’ debate on brain development: while the recruitment of occipital (visual) regions by non-visual inputs in blind individuals highlights the ability of the brain to remodel itself due to experience (nurture influence), the observation of specialized cognitive modules in the reorganised occipital cortex of the blinds, similar to those observed in the sighted, highlights the intrinsic constraints imposed to such plasticity (nature influence).
What then would happen if a congenitally blind individual was given the gift of sight? Would those reorganised regions switch back to their natural dedication to vision? We had the unique opportunity to track the behavioral and neurophysiological changes taking place in the occipital cortex of an early and severely visually impaired patient before as well as 1.5 and 7 months after sight restoration. An in-deep study of this exceptional patient highlighted the dynamic nature of the occipital cortex facing visual deprivation and restoration. Finally, I will present some data demonstrating that even a short period of visual deprivation (only few weeks) during the early sensitive period of brain development leads to enduring large-scale crossmodal reorganization of the brain circuitry typically dedicated to vision, even years after visual inputs.