Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Source: “Visual parsing after recovery from blindness,” Yuri Ostrovsky, Pawan Sinha, et al, Journal of Psychological Science, November 2009

Results: By testing formerly blind patients within weeks of sight restoration, Sinha and his colleagues found that subjects had very limited ability to distinguish an object from its background, identify overlapping objects, or even piece together the different parts of an object. The patients gradually improved over time, and the new study suggests that dynamic information — that is, input from moving objects — is critical to the brain’s ability to learn to segregate objects from their backgrounds (a task known as visual integration).

Why it matters: Doctors have been hesitant to treat older patients because the conventional dogma holds that the brain is incapable of learning to see after age 5 or 6, but these findings support the idea of treating blindness in older children and adults. The results also offer insight into modeling the human visual system, diagnosing visual disorders, creating rehabilitation procedures and developing computers that can see.

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