Star Trek-esque Device May Let Blind 'See'

Uses sound to activate visual cortex
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Feb 13, 2012 12:54 PM CST
A frame grab from YouTube video, via Amir Amedi's Lab.   (YouTube)

(Newser) – Remember the iconic Star Trek visor that allowed a blind engineer to see? A team of scientists in Israel has developed something like a real-life version of the gadget, the Daily Mail reports. The Sensory Substitution Device turns visual information into sound that blind people can interpret after a little training. The noises activate portions of the visual cortex, which are normally dormant in the blind; this allows them to detect shapes and people around them—and even read.

MRI scans revealed that the visual cortices of blind people using the device were working as they would in the brains of sighted people. "The brain is not a sensory machine, although it often looks like one; it is a task machine," notes inventor Amir Amedi of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. That means the visual cortex can work even without visual information. (Read more Star Trek stories.)

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