Eye Health

13 April 2011

What happens when kids born blind gain sight?

Brain doesn't make connection between seeing and touching right away, small study finds.

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Brain doesn't make connection between seeing and touching right away, small study finds.

When children who were blind from birth were able to see for the first time, they weren't immediately able to make the connection between what they were seeing and what they were feeling with their hands, a new study reveals.

However, they gained that ability within a few days.

The findings

The findings suggest that the brain doesn't have a natural ability to make a connection between different types of sensory input but can quickly learn that skill, Pawan Sinha, a professor in the brain and cognitive sciences department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in an MIT news release.

The study included five children, aged 8 to 17, in India who were born blind. Four of them had congenital cataracts and one had corneal opacity. They underwent surgery to correct their eye problems.

The results

The patients' ability to make the connection between what they were seeing and what they were feeling with their hands was tested within 48 hours after surgery, shortly after their eye bandages were removed.

The study was published in the 10 April online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The brain appears to learn to make connections between different types of sensory input by analysing the timing of each stimulus, the researchers said. An example would be looking at your cell phone upon hearing it ring.

"The brain essentially has to look at the time sequence and figure out the correspondence," Sinha said. (HealthDay News/ April 2011)

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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.

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