November 13, 2012 17:19
Previously it was thought that if the visual cortex of the brain is deprived of visual information in early infancy, it can never properly develop their functional specialization, making the restoration of vision in later life almost impossible.
Scientists from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the French have shown that blind people with specialized photographic and audio devices can actually "see" and describe objects and identify letters and words. The results are published in the current issue of the journal Neuron.
A new study by a team of scientists led by Professor Amir Amedi of the Hebrew University and Dr. Ella Stream Amit, shows how you can do this by special learning paradigms, using sensory substitution device (SSD).
Device users are miniature cameras connected to a small computer or smart phone, and stereo headphones. Visual images are converted to "sound" with the use of simple and predictable algorithm. It allows a blind user to listen and then interpret visual information from the camera. Blind participants in this unit have reached a new level of visual acuity. As a result, their vision was no less "visual", although not in the usual sense, because it is not associated with activation of ophthalmic system. But it actually interacts with parts of the brain that are responsible for vision and analysis of what he saw. Therefore it is possible to activate them, and teach people to "see", even if you previously did not have any visual experience.
Research shows that after learning semidesyatichasovogo blind people can easily use SSD for data objects, such as faces, houses, different forms of materials and their textures. They were also able to identify more complex things — the location of several people, their facial expressions, and even able to read the letters and whole words.
«SSD can help blind and partially sighted people to learn how to process complex images, as in this experiment. They can also be used as a sort of sensory interpreters who provide high-quality, continuous, simultaneous visual input signal coming from an external device, such as a bionic eye, "- says