The Substitution Effect

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z36LxkWt0Dk&feature=related

The video above is about a woman named Cheryl Schiltz, she lost over 98% of her vestibular system capabilities. The vestibular system's function is mostly balance, but also effects spatial learning and head position. Cheryl woke up one morning and found that she couldn't balance and could barely stand up right, and without something to hold on to, she would completely lose her balance. In the video they show a new piece of technology that has been able to help her. The device utilizes the brain's plasticity and the substitution effect. The way that the device works is that a electrode is placed on Cheryl's tongue and that is hooked up to a computer, the helmet that she wears can determine the tilt of her body when she makes slight movements and sends the signals to the electrode on her tongue and allows her to feel her balance through various electrical signals on her tongue. Because she has lost her vestinbular sense through damage to hair cells in her inner ear, she needs to use another method of getting the signals of her direction to her brain, that's why she wears the electrode on her tongue. After wearing the device and removing it, they found that she was able to still balance for some time with out the device.

Being able to balance afterwards is due to a residual effect. They believe that when Cheryl is using the device, that the brain is utilizing this new stimulus to build a new connection to the vestibular part of the brain. This has to do with the phrase, "Neurons that fire together, wire together." After using the device for several months, they found that the residual effect was lasting longer each time and after so many months, Cheryl was able to cut down the amount she used the device to only once every two to three months. It is amazing to see and learn about how amazing the brain is and how it is able to compensate for things and even repair itself. I found this specific study very interesting and it makes me wonder what else can be done to people that have lost some sort of sense or have some other brain function.

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