New Study Teaches Blind People How to “See” Through Sound

Researchers from Reichman University’s Brain Cognition and Technology Institute conducted a study that demonstrated that sound may activate visual navigation centers in the brain.

For the layman, this means that the blind can be taught to “see” around them through sound, even if they didn’t learn to do so on their own.

This discovery calls into question the Nobel Prize-winning concept of critical periods and provides the potential to slow the progression of dementia. Sensory Substitution Devices (SSDs) were used in the study to transfer sensory data from one sense to another, allowing vision-impaired people to “see” through sounds.

Surprisingly, people in their 40s-60s+ have demonstrated excellent training on SSDs, calling into question the notion that there are key periods for sensory maturation.

Those who are congenitally blind can establish selective activation in visual navigation regions of the brain, such as the area responsible for motion perception and navigation, with brief training with EyeCane SSD.

This indicates that if the correct technology and training are used, the brain can interpret visual tasks and qualities despite a lack of visual experience.

Because spatial abnormalities are a typical early indication of Alzheimer’s disease, and navigational and spatial awareness relies on the optical navigation centers of the brain, the study’s results are important for improving the identification and prevention of the disease as well.

Researchers may be able to find early biomarkers and targets for therapies intended for preventing or delaying the course of Alzheimer’s disease by better understanding the neural mechanisms governing spatial navigation.

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