Israeli neurophysiologists have developed a method for training blind people, allowing them to acquire the ability to “see” the silhouettes of people moving around them, their posture and manner of movement with the help of ears. This technique is published in an article in Current Biology.
“Our idea was to replace the lack of vision with another“ channel ”of information, the source of which is the other senses. This is comparable to the way dolphins and bats use echolocation to “see” with their ears, ”said one of the authors of the methodology Amir Amedi from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (Israel).
Amedi with his colleagues taught several blind people to navigate in space with the help of ears, having developed a unique training system. Using this technique, the authors of the work gradually taught volunteers to recognize simple elements – sound “lines” and “points”, and then proceeded to more complex “pictures”.
Gradually, the study participants learned to recognize rather complex images. At this stage, neurophysiologists moved on to the next stage of the experiment. They developed a special vOICe algorithm and based on it created a program for iPad and iPhone. This application takes pictures from the built-in camera in the tablet and phone, takes them in black and white and highlights the contours of objects and people on them, then converts the picture into sound.
After giving out these “gadgets” to volunteers, scientists checked whether they could recognize people’s silhouettes or furnishings while observing the activity in their brains. In general, the experiment ended successfully – the most capable volunteers managed not only to recognize the figures of people, but also to “see” the manner of their movement or the poses in which they stood.
Interestingly, observations of brain activity showed that this information was processed not in the field of hearing, but in the field of vision. This suggests that it is able to work with different sources of information.