• Question: How does your body get stronger when you lose one of your senses?

    Asked by arms499seg to Michael S, Martin M, Kirsty R, David M, David B, Bruno Silvester L, Alexander dB on 8 Feb 2024.
    • Photo: David Bremner

      David Bremner answered on 8 Feb 2024:

      I wouldn’t say the body gets stronger but if one of the senses is lost then any enhancement in the remaining senses would be due to the brain.

    • Photo: Bruno Silvester Lopes

      Bruno Silvester Lopes answered on 8 Feb 2024:

      Our body adapts to everything. When one sense is not present, the other becomes strong to compensate that loss.

    • Photo: Alexander de Bruin

      Alexander de Bruin answered on 8 Feb 2024:

      Your body doesn’t get stronger (like Marvel’s Daredevil), but your other senses can appear stronger as your brain is no longer having to focus on the lost sense

    • Photo: Martin McCoustra

      Martin McCoustra answered on 8 Feb 2024:

      I’d agree with the comments below… the brain is an incredibly powerful computer and appears to enhance some senses when we lose one. It sort of learns to fill in information where part of something is missing.

    • Photo: Kirsty Ross

      Kirsty Ross answered on 8 Feb 2024:

      The brain is very good at filling in gaps and adapting to something being missing.

    • Photo: Michael Schubert

      Michael Schubert answered on 8 Feb 2024:

      Your brain can adapt to a lot of things! This is called “plasticity” and means that, if one area of your brain stops working or needing to work, you can stop building pathways to that part of your brain and build more and stronger pathways to other parts. So for instance, if you stop being able to see, your brain doesn’t need to exercise the parts that are responsible for seeing – but you might need to rely on your hearing and touch more, so it builds more pathways and sends more signals to the areas that help understand and control hearing and touch.

      Also, you practice more with those senses, so you get better at using them (which is also a way of building more brain pathways to support them)!

    • Photo: David McGonigle

      David McGonigle answered on 11 Feb 2024:

      As a sensory neuroscientist, I have a different take on this question from some of the other answers.

      Your brain doesn’t ‘know’ that one sense is missing. This is an important point to take away. I’m assuming, also, that when you say your body is getting stronger, you mean that, when you are blind, you suddenly have super-duper hearing. So is it the case that ‘when one sense is not present, the other becomes strong’?

      Well…maybe. But probably not. While brains do possess plasticity – the ability to change and adapt to new things, or new problems – the jury is very much out on whether or not things change in a way that suggests that new connections or new pathways are being made in the brain.

      An old colleague of mine, Krish Sathian, working in Emory Uni in America did an experiment to see if blind participants had better touch. But – unusually – instead of comparing their abilities to ‘normal’ or ‘neurotypical’ participants, he had a further experimental group.

      This group were blindfolded for around an hour, and then did the same touch tasks (working out what texture was rougher, if you can feel very light pricks to your fingers etc.) Guess what? The blindfold group and the ACTUAL blind group were not significantly different. So while our brains can adapt to a loss of input in one sense, here it would be too quick for any new connections to be made.

      So…the brains of people that are without a sense are, arguably, using the same resources we all have, in similar situations.

      Best, Dave