Vision keeps developing until mid-life

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Toronto, May 30 (IANS) Challenging current belief that our vision matures in the first few years of life, researchers have found that the visual cortex, the human brain’s vision-processing centre, actually continues to develop until some time in the late 30s or early 40s.

For the study, researchers examined post-mortem brain-tissue samples from 30 people ranging in age from 20 days to 80 years.

The visual cortex of the brain reaches maturity until about age 36, plus or minus 4.5 years, showed the findings published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The finding was a surprise to the researchers, who had expected to find that the cortex reached its mature stage by 5 to 6 years, consistent with previous results from animal samples and with prevailing scientific and medical belief.

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“There’s a big gap in our understanding of how our brains function,” said lead researcher Kathryn Murphy, Professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

“Our idea of sensory areas developing in childhood and then being static is part of the challenge. It’s not correct,” Murphy said.

Treatment for conditions such as amblyopia or “lazy eye”, for example, have been based on the idea that only children could benefit from corrective therapies, since it was thought that treating young adults would be pointless because they had passed the age when their brains could respond, Murphy said.

Though the research is isolated to the visual cortex, it suggests that other areas of the brain may also be much more plastic for much longer than previously thought.

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