Trends in cognitive sciences
Cognitive neuroscience seeks to discover how cognitive functions are implemented in neural circuits. Studies of plasticity in blindness suggest that this mind-brain mapping is highly flexible during development. In blindness, 'visual' cortices take on higher-cognitive functions, including language and mathematics, becoming sensitive to the grammatical structure of spoken sentences and the difficulty of math equations. Visual cortex activity at rest becomes synchronized with higher-cognitive networks. Such repurposing is striking in light of the cognitive and evolutionary differences between vision, language, and mathematics. We propose that human cortices are cognitively pluripotent, that is, capable of assuming a wide range of cognitive functions. Specialization is driven by input during development, which is itself constrained by connectivity and experience. 'The child who methodically adds two numbers from right to left, carrying a digit when necessary, may be using the same algorithm that is implemented by the wires and transistors of the cash register in the neighborhood supermarket…' ▓▓Vision, 1982, David Marr.