The Frontal Cortex

Teaching the Tongue to See

It’s an audacious idea, and I didn’t believe it was possible until I saw the video. But it really is possible to teach blind people to see using their tongue. By connecting a camera to an array of electrodes that stimulate the sensitive nerves inside the mouth – a pixel of light is translated into a slight pinch – scientists can literally retrain the brain. Check out the video:

This might seem like an impossible example of sensory plasticity, but it’s been done before. The neuroscientist Mriganka Sur, for example, literally re-wired the mind of a ferret, so that the information from its retina was plugged into its auditory cortex. To Sur’s astonishment, the ferrets could still see. Furthermore, their auditory cortex now resembled the typical ferret visual cortex, complete with spatial maps and neurons tuned to detect slants of light.

Thanks for the tip Nikhil!

Comments

  1. #1 Barbara Kim Thigpen
    October 18, 2007

    Time Warp, Be Here Now, Kaiphos Moment, Quantum Leap, Once Upon A Time, Wormhole Cruiser, Long Count, Cornerstone, Prototype, Antekythera,

  2. #2 Maria
    October 18, 2007

    Jonah,

    Great stuff. I just added you to the blogroll on my own block which, although with a somewhat different focus, was originally inspired by my fascination with the brain (hence its name) and the way it shapes what moves people.

    Anyway, won’t do any shameless self-propaganda here, just wanted to say yours is one of the smartest blogs I’ve come across in a long time — and I scan blogs for a living. Keep it coming.

  3. #3 Vishnu
    October 22, 2007

    Nice article.. great stuff.. Just had a thought (or you can say a doubt) – will it possible to do the similar way to deaf and dum people also as everything is related to converting the light/sound/action into signals and sending them to brain (if ‘m not wrong)? can we extend this to other activities also?

  4. #4 Venkatesh Varalu
    October 23, 2007

    nice one… Is this possible to be taken to the masses??
    How effective and cost efficient is this??

    You may also like to read this post related to
    Artificial Cornea

  5. #5 Kris Verburgh
    October 28, 2007

    Seeing with your tongue, unbelievable!

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