It is commonly accepted that the blind can partially compensate for their loss of vision by developing enhanced abilities with their remaining senses. This visual compensation may be related to the fact that blind people rely on their other senses in everyday life. Many studies have indeed shown that experience plays an important role in visual compensation. Numerous neuroimaging studies have shown that the visual cortices of the blind are recruited by other functional brain areas and can become responsive to tactile or auditory input instead. These cross-modal plastic changes are more pronounced in the early blind compared to late blind individuals. The functional consequences of cross-modal plasticity on visual compensation in the blind are debated, as are the influences of various etiologies of vision loss (i.e., blindness acquired early or late in life). Distinguishing between the influences of experience and visual deprivation on compensation is especially relevant for rehabilitation of the blind with sensory substitution devices. The BrainPort artificial vision device and The vOICe are assistive devices for the blind that redirect visual information to another intact sensory system. Establishing how experience and different etiologies of vision loss affect the performance of these devices may help to improve existing rehabilitation strategies, formulate effective selection criteria and develop prognostic measures. In this review we will discuss studies that investigated the influence of training and visual deprivation on the performance of various sensory substitution approaches.
Brain Research – Elsevier
Published: Oct 22, 2015
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