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!