This topic has been in the news lately. It seems that there is new research that reveals a primal sense of awareness and vision underlying our ability to recognize visual images. I first came across this in a piece done on NPR and in the NY Times on a blind mans ability to navigate an obstacle course. This patient was left blind by two successive strokes and received damage to the information processing part of his brain, but did not sustain damage to his eyes or optic nerve. In spite of the inability to process visual stimulation, he was able to successfully navigate an obstacle course which was laid before him.
I then saw this piece on CNN about a photograph exibit by blind photographers at the Bezalel Academy of Arts in Israel. What a unique concept. Kfir Sivan and Iris Darel-Shinar have run a photography workshop for blind photographers. The pictures are very stunning and haunting at times. I would love to go see the exhibit.
I was also looking at an article written by the MIT News Office on Elizabeth Goldring, an artist, poet, and Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Over the last 20 years, Goldring has developed what she refers to as a “seeing machine”. The first prototype cost over $100,000, but this most recent incarnation has a possible price tag of around $500 and the possibility of opening access to visually impared people.
The advances in understanding visual perception and processing offer hope for people who have lost their ability to connect to their surroundings. This understanding, along with the growing recognition of the artistic contributions provided by these individuals, will make the neuro-visual research an exciting field to follow.