Tags: blind | see | shapes | sound

Blind Being Taught to 'See' Shapes Through Use of Sound Training, Science

Friday, 07 Mar 2014 09:53 AM

By Michael Mullins

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An Israeli study finds that blind people can be taught to see human shapes through sound.

Conducted by a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, researchers used "soundscape" technology to translate sound into images within a blind person's brain, The Blaze reported.

People who can see process images through their brain's visual cortex which is stimulated by their eyes. A blind person's eyes are unable to transmit those images. Scientists, however, have found that a blind person's brain can be tricked into forming human shapes with sufficient training, HNGN.com reported.

"The idea is to replace information from a missing sense by using input from a different sense," said Amir Amedi of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in a press release.

"It's just like bats and dolphins use sounds and echolocation to 'see' using their ears. Imagine for instance a diagonal line going down from left to right; if we use a descending musical scale -- going on the piano from right to left -- it will describe it nicely," Amedi added. "And if the diagonal line is going up from left to right, then we use an ascending musical scale."

According to the study, which was published in the journal Current Biology on Thursday, researchers initially instructed their blind subjects to perceive simple dots and lines in their mind. Once those lines and dots were formed, the researchers further told the blind individuals to use curves to connect the lines. Over time blind participants were reportedly able to work up to more and more complex images until the point where they could not only perceive a person's shape but also their posture.

"We're beginning to understand [that] the brain is more than a pure sensory machine," Amedi added. "It is a highly flexible task machine. The time has come to revive the focus on practical visual rehabilitation with sensory substitution devices."

Though the current study was conducted in black and white images through an algorithm known as call vOICe, the researchers have since reportedly developed a newer algorithm called EyeMusic which incorporates color and is available on iTunes.

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