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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23264. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023264. Epub 2011 Aug 10.

Recruitment of occipital cortex during sensory substitution training linked to subjective experience of seeing in people with blindness.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain. tortiz@med.ucm.es

Abstract

Over three months of intensive training with a tactile stimulation device, 18 blind and 10 blindfolded seeing subjects improved in their ability to identify geometric figures by touch. Seven blind subjects spontaneously reported 'visual qualia', the subjective sensation of seeing flashes of light congruent with tactile stimuli. In the latter subjects tactile stimulation evoked activation of occipital cortex on electroencephalography (EEG). None of the blind subjects who failed to experience visual qualia, despite identical tactile stimulation training, showed EEG recruitment of occipital cortex. None of the blindfolded seeing humans reported visual-like sensations during tactile stimulation. These findings support the notion that the conscious experience of seeing is linked to the activation of occipital brain regions in people with blindness. Moreover, the findings indicate that provision of visual information can be achieved through non-visual sensory modalities which may help to minimize the disability of blind individuals, affording them some degree of object recognition and navigation aid.

PMID:
21853098
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3154329
Free PMC Article

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