World Thinkers’ Ideas – Push the Limits


Your ears… makes you hear. Or Don’t they?

Can we learn to extract sensory information from unusual sensory channels? Sensory substitution is a way to work around the loss of one sense by sending information though another channel. Pushing the limits to reach new insights may require new technology. A successful project also requires a vision and purpose.

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and director of the Laboratory for Perception and Action. He is best known for his work on time perception, synesthesia, and neurolaw. David has created a vibratory vest to allow deaf or people with severe hearing impairment to perceive auditory information through small vibrations on their torso.

We only see part of the what is going on.  Let me rephrase that – we only see of tiny fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum. Piranha and goldfish can see in infrared light, which is useful to help them in murky waters. Some animals, such as birds, bees, and certain fish, perceive ultraviolet (beyond violet). Reindeer rely on ultraviolet light to spot lichens that they eat.

The receptive field is the part of the world to which our receptor organ and receptor cells respond. For example, we not have not developed biological receptors to see, for example, in the infrared of ultraviolet spectrum.  Our  visual system, auditory system and somatosensory system are receptive fields that have been identified.

David Eagleman’s  research highlights the plasticity of our brains. We can even use sensory information from unusual sensory channels. We are good at extracting information. We can create conditions for the brain to become plastic and create new neural connections, patterns, and pathways.  Our brains are plastic and can change to adapt to circumstances.

Go here to read more about brain plasticity.

Photo:  “Hear No Evil” by sippakorn

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