Monday, September 1, 2014

Blind from birth, but can now see

What happens when someone who was blind from birth gains the power of sight?
Sinha showed me a video in which a teen-age boy, blind since birth because of opaque cataracts, sees for the first time. The boy sits still and blinks silently, the room around him reflecting in his eyes as a kind of proof of their new transparency. Sinha believes these first moments for the newly sighted are blurry, incoherent, and saturated by brightness—like walking into daylight with dilated pupils—and swirls of colors that do not make sense as shapes or faces or any kind of object. “The moments immediately following bandage removal are not quite as ‘magical’ as Hollywood movies would have us believe,” Sinha told me. To answer Molyneux, then: No. A cube and a sphere are both lost in this confusion.

Stephen Kosslyn, a pioneer in the field of vision and mental imagery, told me that he was not surprised by Sinha’s results—many of the seemingly natural qualities in everyday vision are not innate but are instead learned through experience.

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