Dr Velia Cardin
I study neural plasticity, in an attempt to understand the general principles governing human brain function. Research on neural plasticity has the advantage of not only providing insights into the rules, capabilities and constrains of the neural system, but also of its potential for adaptation, change and enhancement. Using neuroimaging, pharmacological and behavioural techniques, my research focuses on deafness, because of the diversity of effects and potential for applications. In deaf humans, neural plasticity is not only the consequence of changes in sensory inputs, but also drives cognitive changes, as language must be acquired visually and is often delayed.
Working at DCAL in collaboration with the University of Linköping, Sweden, we have shown that sensory and cognitive mechanisms cause reorganisation in segregated brain regions, preserving the nature of the cortical processing but adapting to a different sensory input (see our paper and press coverage). This is fundamental in terms of understanding how we obtain meaningful information from sensory inputs – it is the kind of computation the brain is capable of performing that is relevant, rather than the nature of the information itself. This has significant implications for robotics and artificial intelligence, as well as for cochlear implantation and language choices in deaf children.
I have also worked reviewing the evidence claiming that visual forms of communication, such as sign language and lip-reading, cause ‘maladaptive’ crossmodal plasticity in auditory regions. Our review concludes that, in deaf individuals, crossmodal reorganisation of the auditory cortex occurs regardless of compensatory language strategies. In contrast, avoiding visual language during infancy results in language deprivation during early sensitive periods, which has been repeatedly linked to poor language outcomes. This has profound implications for education and policy with respect to language choices in deaf children. See our paper here.
If you are interested in music, you can also see this video, where I talk about the experience of music in deaf people, and the neuroscience behind this phenomenon. This was done in collaboration with Guerrilla Science UK for the Sencity Multisensory Event.
Direct contact: 02076795822 Email: Velia Cardin