Blind Human Echolocators Use Visual Areas of the Brain
[Source: Science Daily]
Certain blind individuals have the ability to use echoes from tongue or finger clicks to recognize objects in the distance, and some use echolocation as a replacement for vision. Research done by Dr. Mel Goodale, from the University of Western Ontario, in Canada, and colleagues around the world, is showing that echolocation in blind individuals is a full form of sensory substitution, and that blind echolocation experts recruit regions of the brain normally associated with visual perception when making echo-based assessments of objects. Dr. Goodale’s latest results were presented at the 9th Annual Canadian Neuroscience Meeting in Vancouver British Columbia.
“Our experiments show that echolocation is not just a tool to help visually-impaired individuals navigate their environment, but can act as an effective sensory replacement for vision, allowing them to recognize the shape, size, and material properties of objects” says Mel Goodale.
Just like multiple properties (size, expected weight, texture, composition) of an object assessed by visual cues are encoded in different brain regions, recent research done in the Goodale laboratory shows that the same is true of information obtained through the auditory cues provided by echolocation. Indeed, many of the same regions in the sighted brain that are used for the visual assessment of objects are recruited in the blind brain when objects are explored using echolocation.
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