Eye Health

27 May 2011

Blind use echoes to identify objects

Bats and dolphins aren't the only mammals that use echolocation - the ability to use sounds alone to identify objects and navigate unfamiliar surroundings. Researchers have found that people are also capable of echolocating.

0

Bats and dolphins aren't the only mammals that use echolocation - the ability to use sounds alone to identify objects and navigate unfamiliar surroundings. Researchers have found that people are also capable of echolocating.

The study, published online in PLoS ONE, found that by learning to make clicking noises and listening to the faint returning echoes, blind people were able to map out their environments, identifying objects such as a car, a flagpole or a tree.

The results suggest that blind people may be able to use the skill to play basketball, mountain bike or find their way in strange places, the study authors noted.

"It is clear that echolocation enables blind people to do things that are otherwise thought to be impossible without vision, and in this way it can provide blind and vision-impaired people with a high degree of independence in their daily lives," the study's senior author, Mel Goodale, director of the Centre for Brain and Mind at the University of Western Ontario and Canada Research Chair in Visual Neuroscience, said.

Blind people use visual part of brain

Surprisingly, by measuring participants' brain activity while they were echolocating, the investigators also found that the blind echolocators were actually using the "visual" part of their brains to process the sounds.

"This suggests that visual brain areas play an important role for echolocation in blind people," the study's lead author, Lore Thaler, postdoctoral fellow at University of Western Ontario, explained.


(Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.)

 

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Optometrist

Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules