Blind Man Walks Obstacle Course Using 'Blindsight'

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2008 8:59 PM CST
In this image released by Robson Entertainment, Erik Weihenmayer, left, and blind climber Tashi are shown in a scene from "Blindsight."   (AP Photo/Robson Entertainment)
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(Newser) – A blind man has surprised scientists by walking an obstacle course with the strange power of "blindsight," the Times of London reports. The man, blinded by brain-damaging strokes, cleanly walked the course without using a cane. He had already baffled experts by reacting to people's facial expressions. “This is absolutely the first study of this ability in humans," said Professor Beatrice de Gelder, who led the Dutch study.

She attributed his "hindsight" power to "the importance of evolutionarily ancient visual paths"—unknown channels that allow the eyes to send information to the brain. “It’s a part of our vision that’s for orienting and doing in the world rather than for understanding," de Gelder said. The ability had been studied in blind monkeys, but never before in a person, New Scientist reports.