This is Scientific American 60-Second Mind, I'm Christie Nicholson. Got a minute?
Conventional wisdom once had it that each brain region is responsible for a specific task.
And so we have the motor cortex for handling movements, and the visual cortex, for processing sight.
And scientists thought that such regions remained fixed for those tasks beyond the age of three.
But within the past decade researchers have realized that some brain regions can pinch hit for other regions, for example, after a damaging stroke.
And now new research finds that the visual cortex is constantly doing double duty, it has a role in processing not just sight, but sound.
When we hear, we see a siren.
In the study, scientists scanned the brains of blindfolded participants as the subjects listened to three sounds:
And scientist could tell what specific sounds the subjects were hearing just by analyzing the brain activity in the visual cortex.
The next step is to determine why the visual cortex is horning in on the audio action.
The researchers think the additional role conferred an evolutionary advantage: having a visual system primed by sound to see the source of that sound could have given humans an extra step in the race for survival.
Thanks for the minute, for Scientific American 60-Second Mind.I'm Christie Nicholson.