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You are right indeed.. it is more like a network of points requiring more energy at certain points ...
but some very specific areas deeicated to gather the information and produced an specific output (ot input in the case of the auditory cortex or the priamry visual cortex).

It seems that the most perpherial parts of the brain must be hihgly trained at the first stages of development.. and then proceed to get fairly fixed activity. Those areas can be studied in great detail..and the effects of the environment on this areas (learning) can be studied by doing experiments.

Since these specific areas have a high plasticity and highly depend on external input we just guess that the other parts that we see light-up in the fMRI are like mega-complex network of subunits workign hierarchialy and much more plastic than those peripherial areas.

It is really as amazing as you indicate... and more :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 03:55:39 PM EST
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Maybe this is why some people, blind from birth, still cannot see (as normal seeing people do) when their ability to "see" (with the eye) is technically restored. The part of the brain that processes visual stimuli must be trained to do so from birth or it loses the ability to really "see."  The up side of blindness is that this part of the brain usually becomes devoted to doing something else better.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 11:14:04 PM EST
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And then there are the 'polarized' kittens!
Kittens with access to only vertical (or horizontal) stimuli during their early life will be incapable of seeing lines of the other orientation later in life. Lots of hits refering to these results without actual references to the original research... But here is an original source, that seems to confirm the effect as more than an urban legend: http://www.brain.riken.jp/bsi-news/bsinews29/no29/research2e.html
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Tue Jul 10th, 2007 at 06:20:53 AM EST
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I knew this experiemtns.. Actually they are much more complex. for example.. if the cat is raised over the gorund and it is not allowed to touch the floor while watching.. no matter that he is able to detect horizontal and vertical lines.. he would not be able to walk.. becasue he cann ot coordiante visionand movement.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Jul 10th, 2007 at 07:33:50 AM EST
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How about the experiments in which an adult wears "inverting" glasses and the brain (reversibly) adjusts after a few days of headaches?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 10th, 2007 at 07:40:16 AM EST
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