New York Post


Miracle blindness trick


For the blind, better navigation might be just a click of the tongue away.

A study from England’s Durham University examined how people with vision loss can navigate with echolocati­on, a type of sonar used by animals such as dolphins and bats in which they emit sound waves that bounce off objects.

The study, published in the Public Library of Science Journal One, involved blind and sighted participan­ts ages 21 to 79 who were taught to click their tongues as a way of taking in their surroundin­gs. Over the course of 10 weeks, the participan­ts took part in 20 two- to three-hour-long “click echolocati­on” training sessions outside the lab. During that time, they learned how to make the clicking noise with their tongue, and to use the sounds to help them navigate through mazes with tricky layouts, including corridors with sharp intersecti­ons and zigzags.

The participan­ts also figured out how to identify the size and orientatio­n of objects and surfaces in their paths, all following the echoes from their mouth clicks.

During the final weeks, participan­ts tested their skills in new mazes. Researcher­s observed fewer collisions compared with the beginning of the training, despite participan­ts being asked to move through unfamiliar environmen­ts.

Young & old benefit

Researcher­s noted that echolocato­rs can be taught to “see” their surroundin­gs by tapping into visual parts of the brain, noting that the skill can be developed well into adulthood and even old age.

Indeed, blind people up to age 79 were able to learn the echolocati­on skill with ease. Older people had no more collisions than their younger counterpar­ts, although the youngsters did finish the mazes faster.

Three months after the study was over, blind participan­ts confirmed that they were still using echolocati­on techniques, and 10 out of 12 said the skill improved their independen­ce and overall well-being.

As the authors noted: “Training led to remarkable behavioral changes for all participan­ts.”

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