New technologies allow the blind to navigate – Israeli study

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 New technologies allow the blind to navigate – Israeli study

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A new study by researchers at Reichmann University's Institute for Cognition and Brain Technology has shown that visual navigation areas in the brain can be activated by sound. When traversing mazes using auditory information instead of visual information, visual navigation areas were activated. This finding has many interesting implications, including that the results disprove the Nobel Prize-winning critical periods theory and provide new ways of cognitive training that can potentially detect and even prevent Alzheimer's disease.

The team conducted a series of studies that challenge conventional wisdom about the functioning of the human brain, arguing that the brain is divided by task, not the conventional division into sense organs – vision, hearing, etc. These studies used sensory replacement devices (SS), which are instruments that transfer sensory information from one sense to another.

For example, SSDs can help visually impaired people “see” by converting visual information into sounds. Once trained, people can identify shapes, the location of objects, words, letters, and even faces when they are represented by sound. SSD training has been shown to be effective for people even in their 40s and 60s, challenging the idea that there are critical periods for sensory development.

The classical theory of critical periods suggests that the senses can only be developed at an early age through exposure to sights, sounds, touch and other sensory information, and if they are not developed during this period, they cannot be used at a later age. life.

The results of this study show that short training sessions with EyeCane – solid state drive that transmits spatial information about the visual environment using sounds, – even people who are born blind can develop selective arousal. The study also supports the idea that despite years or a lifetime of blindness, the brain can process visual tasks and properties if the right technologies and training are used.

The results may have implications for improving the detection and prevention of Alzheimer's disease, the team said. Spatial deficit is a common early symptom of Alzheimer's disease. Better understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying the development and functioning of spatial navigation “it may be possible to identify early biomarkers and targets for interventions aimed at preventing or slowing the progression of Alzheimer”.

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