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How the Blind Can Learn to "See"

June 5, 2011, 9:06 AM
Bat

What's the Latest Development?

Blind people have always used sound to navigate the world, but now the visually-impaired are learning to finely tune their ear to a degree never before possible. By making small clicks with their tongue, the blind are learning to "see" the world just as bats and dolphins use sound to map objects in their surrounding environment. "It may sound like science fiction but those who are best at echo-location are so proficient that they can ride skateboards or bikes through busy streets despite being entirely blind."

What's the Big Idea?

Echo-location works by reprogramming the very way the brain thinks, which neuroscientists call neuro-plasticity. It is no small task. "Professor Gordon Dutton, a British ophthalmologist and leading expert on cerebral visual impairments, has become a supporter of echo-location, but says that those who wish to use it must work hard: 'Mastering echo-location takes years of work, you need to put in something like 10,000 man hours... You have to put huge amounts of work in and entirely reprogramme the way your brain thinks.'"

 

How the Blind Can Learn to ...

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