People who are blind can learn to process visual input through sound—even after a lifetime of blindness, a new study published this month in the journal Neuron finds.
In their studies, researchers at the Hebrew University Medical School in Israel taught congenitally blind adults to use sensory substitution devices—non-invasive sensory aids that provide visual information—through the senses they do have. For example, using a visual-to-auditory sensory aid, images from a video camera are converted into "soundscapes" representing the images. These allowed users to listen to and then interpret the visual information coming from the camera or see the sounds.
"The adult brain is more flexible that we thought," said senior author of the study Amir Amedi of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences and the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada at the Hebrew University.
After being taught how to use the devices, blind people could use them to learn to read, with sounds representing visual images of letters, the researchers found, using a region of the brain called the visual word form area. In those who are sighted, this region is activated by seeing and reading letters.
Read more of Nirvi Shah's On Special Education article HERE.