If you were told that you can see with your tongue, how will it sound? Crazy or even impossible, isn’t it? But it is not so. A study by Bach-Y- Rita, a neuroscientist proved that the eye has nothing to do with sight1. It is the brain that sees whereas the eyes are just an input device1. The experiment proved that an individual can see even when blindfolded by catching an impulse with the tongue. The subject in the experiment was blindfolded and his ears closed. His right hand, arm and head were strapped with wires which were connected to a computer while his tongue was filled with electrodes. A ball was rolled on the table on which he placed his hands. Even though the subject could not see or hear, he could catch the ball due to the impulse felt at the tongue with the rolling of the ball.
Similarly is the case of ears, tongue, nose and skin. They are all input devices for vision, sound, taste, smell and touch to be passed on to the brain. When the data is passed on to the brain, the brain processes the information that enables us to experience the five senses. There are different areas in the brain for each of these senses such as “visual cortex for visual input and somatosensory cortex for touch input”2. The information to the brain can be passed from any input device i.e. from any sensory organ and the brain will still processes the data. For example another study showed how the brain uses the visual cortex and the somatosensory cortex for people who were blind from birth2. The study showed that blind people can still visualize the patterns of the bumps when using the Braille though they cannot see anything2.
These kinds of experiments only proved that the brain is the most plastic and fantastic organ. Research states that if one part of the brain is damaged, other part of the brain can be enabled to perform the same function that has been hampered. Not only that Bach-Y- Rita’s experiment helped navy divers to see in the dark, black waters of the ocean through the sonar signals that passed through their tongue interface3. Similarly, battlefield soldiers are enabled to have a 360 degree vision in the night through the infrared sensors in their helmets that pass data signals to their tongues3.
Authored by Akash Chander. Akash is currently the Principal Coach at The Orange Academy. He is the lead facilitator for Leadership training programs conducted by Strengthscape Private Limited