Seeing with Tongues

A new breakthrough device, recently covered in Scientific American, restores partial eyesight to the blind by using sensors in the tongue to send sign signals to the brain.  The research comes from neuroscientist Paul Bach-y-Rita.

Experiments have shown that:

within 15 minutes of using the device, blind people can begin interpreting spatial information via the BrainPort, says William Seiple, research director at the nonprofit vision healthcare and research organization Lighthouse International. The electrodes spatially correlate with the pixels so that if the camera detects light fixtures in the middle of a dark hallway, electrical stimulations will occur along the center of the tongue.

The thesis behind the the device, known as the Brainport, is that we see with our brains, not our eyes.  It comes down to how we learn, not what we learn.

“It becomes a task of learning, no different than learning to ride a bike,” Arnoldussen says, adding that the “process is similar to how a baby learns to see. Things may be strange at first, but over time they become familiar.”

This is a guest post from Alex J. Mann.  You can subscribe to his blog here and follow him on Twitter here.