Can Humans Can See Sound and Hear Light?
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August 21, 2008

Can Humans Can See Sound and Hear Light?

Sixth_sense_ver2 Ever wondered how those who have lost their sight can hear so well? Or wondered how it was that someone with no hearing could see so well? According to Pascal Barone of the Universite Paul Sabatier in Toulouse, France, the answer might lie in his latest research.

Barone, head researcher of a discovery that was published last week in the journal BMC Neuroscience, believes that humans can hear light and see sound.

Barone believes it is the only explanation from his studies, which focused on two trained monkeys. The monkeys were trained to locate a light flash on a screen. When the light was especially bright, the monkeys had no problem in finding it, while when it was a dimmer flash of light, it took the monkeys longer. However when a brief noise accompanied the flash of light, the monkeys found it very quickly. Barone believes that they found it too quickly, if original thinking is correct.

For a long time now, scientists have believed that the visual system focused on sight, whereas the auditory system focused on recording sound. They believed that the two would never overlap, and that a higher cognitive producer like the superior colliculus would combine the two.

But Barone’s work suggests that at times, the two might actually work together.

What they found in their observations of the monkeys was proven in the recordings taken from neurons responsible for the visual processing at the earliest stage of stimulus. They found that, when the sound played, the neurons reacted as if the light flash had been stronger than it actually was, speaking to a direct connection between the ear and eye regions of the brain.

A discovery like this adds credence to watching an animal as it is stalked by an animal, picking up minimal visual cues but hearing the rustling of a branch.

Posted by Josh Hill.

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Comments

This isn't really new, it sounds like the condition of synesthesia, wherein one can hear colors, taste colors - in a manner of speaking. I know because I experience this phenomenon from time to time. Some synesthetes go on to be artists. Anyway, this is not a new thing.

"This isn't really new, it sounds like the condition of synesthesia."

Actually, the original article says that the phenomenon is probably unrelated to synesthesia.

Another thing I'd like to comment on is the line: "Ever wondered how those who have lost their sight can hear so well?"

I'm not sure these new findings are the explanation for this. Simply put, there's "sensation" and there's "perception". A blind person will simply pay (and have to pay) more attention to the world of sound to get around. And as such, they learn to hear better, and process sound better.

For example, a musician who has lost some of his hearing over the time of his career, has thereby lost some "sensation". Certain frequencies may have become inaudible because of organic damage to the hair cells in the ear. Yet, having worked with sound his entire life, he might be able to hear certain details in sounds that young kids with perfect hearing cannot notice (not unless they learn). The musician has thus better "perception".

Of course, there's all kinds of blindnesses. So perhaps it helps to explain some phenomena we see in certain kinds of blindness?

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