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Congenitally deaf cats have better peripheral vision

13 October 2010

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Category: Research & medical benefits

cat.jpgWhen the brain is deprived of input from one sense it often compensates with above normal performance in another sense. Studies of deaf or blind human subjects often show enhanced perceptual abilities in the remaining senses.

Now work on congenitally deaf cats also shows sensory compensation and suggests how it works. In this case the improved sense is vision, in particular peripheral vision.

Scientists used arrays of light emitting diodes (leds) placed at 15 degree intervals across 180 degrees to measure the cats' vision. The deaf cats performed better for the 60, 75 and 90 degree positions - ie in peripheral vision.

This study suggests that the part of the brain which controls hearing - the auditory cortex - is ‘recruited' to perform visual functions, however it is not known which specific parts of the auditory cortex are involved.

Cats are the only animals apart from humans to suffer from congenital deafness.

Knowing how sensory compensation works is becoming important now that cochlear implants can restore hearing to young deaf children.