Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Technological synaesthesia: How researchers can tap the plasticity of the brain to hack our 5 senses — and build a few new ones

[From boingboing]: Wired's Sunny Bains turned in an excellent piece on technology-induced synaesthesia -- the use of technological prostheses to give humans new senses, or to cross-wire existing ones. Some of the examples he cites are really compelling, like the researcher who surrounded his midriff with rumble-packs, the northernmost of which would gently vibrate, so that he could "feel" north at all times. Eventually, he ended up with a faultless sense of direction, able to pilot himself around strange cities without getting lost. Even more compelling was the rewiring of a subject's sense of balance: University of Wisconsin installed a feedback mechanism on the tongues of subjects with severe balance problems caused by inner-ear disruption. Although their inner ears told them they were whirling around, their tongues vibrated on the left if they were leaning to the left, on the right if they were leaning to the right, and in the middle if they were upright. The subjects were able to overcome their inner ear's faulty directions and navigate without falling over. More at Wired

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