The world that only formerly-blind people can see
2013-04-19 0:00

By Esther Inglis-Arkell | io9



They once were blind but now they see. Which begs the question — what exactly do people see when they gain sight for the first time? Often, it’s terrifying.

What happens when people first really look at the world? Generally, we don’t know. They’re far too young to tell us what’s going on in their mind. By the time children are old enough to articulate what they see, they don’t remember what the world looked like in their first few weeks of life. There are special occasions, though, when full-grown adults can see for the first time. For the most part, they see a complete confusion. Often, that does a lot of emotional damage.

One of the earliest-known cases of regained sight is Virgil, the Roman poet. At age fifty, he had cataract surgery and regained his sight. Soon after, he wished he hadn’t. This is common to many blind people who regain their sight. Unlike infants, who are catered to, whose brains are primed for learning, and who have no option but to learn, blind people are asked to replace a familiar sensory system that reliably guides them through the world with an unfamiliar one that does nothing but confuse them. Sometimes the strain of assimilation is too much. Like many other patients, Virgil would shut his eyes and pretend he was still blind when the situation became overwhelming. He became depressed and died of pneumonia soon after his surgery. Although he had seen the world with his eyes, he retained his “mental blindness,” or what experts call “visual agnosia.”

For someone to see an object, the eye needs to pick it up, but the brain also needs to recognize it. This process takes both practice and a certain physical ability in the brain. Agnosia patients have generally suffered brain injuries and lost the ability to understand what they see – they see a rectangular object with a brown circle on top and a loop on one side, but don’t understand that they’re looking at a cup of coffee. There are only shapes. Those who have been blind most of their lives “wake up” with a certain amount of visual agnosia.



Spatial distance is often the primary problem they run into. One man saw people walking away from him as inexplicably shrinking. Another would practice spatial recognition by going out in a field and throwing his boot as far as he could. He’d hold out his hand to grab it, and if it wasn’t in reach, step forward before trying again.

Another area that many newly-sighted people find inexplicable is paintings and other visual representations. They can comprehend real objects, but not painted ones. When they do understand what the paintings are meant to represent, the shadows that are meant to define space and give shape just look like dark marks on the painting. Which, technically they are. It’s only a willful visual laziness on the part of the sighted that lets us see these paint blotches as shadows rather than shapes and colors.

Because we develop familiarity with faces and facial expressions at specific times in our lives – those who are deprived of human contact or changing facial expressions at that age often have trouble reading expressions for their entire lives – formerly blind people are often face-blind, or unable to decipher emotion from facial expression. Some have trouble differentiating between male and female faces.

[...]

Read the full article at: io9.com



Related Articles
App developer hopes to use Google Glass to help the blind see
Belgium Euthanizes Deaf Twins Going Blind
World’s first bionic eye gifts blind woman eyesight
Blind Mice Given Sight After Device Cracks Retinal Code
Google’s self-driving car takes blind man to Taco Bell
Blind People ’See’ Shapes, Navigate Using Echoes
Blinded Merseyside soldier ’sees’ with tongue device
TouchColor Helps Blind People to Draw
Synesthesia - Numberphile
Synesthesia May Explain Healers Claims of Seeing People’s ’Aura’
David Eagleman - Synesthesia, Unconscious Brain, and Tales from the Afterlives
"Altered States" 1980 - sensory deprivation, hallucinogens, experiments
Sensory-Friendly Film Screenings for Kids with Autism
Eye Contact May Disturb Autistic Kids’ Thinking


Latest News from our Front Page

Barbara Lerner Spectre On Twitter!
2015-07-28 23:04
Kevin MacDonald writes in 2010: In the video below, Barbara Lerner Spectre, who runs a government-funded Jewish study group in Sweden, makes the following remarkable statement—remarkable because she does not attribute anti-Jewish attitudes to irrational prejudices or even Muslims who hate Israel. Instead she says that it’s because of the “leading role” played by Jews in the movement toward multiculturalism: “I think ...
Sweden investigating underwater wreckage as possible Russian submarine
2015-07-28 20:38
What may be the wreckage of a Russian submarine is seen off the coast of Sweden The Swedish military is studying a video taken by shipwreck hunters who say it shows a wrecked submarine, just off the country’s eastern coast, which appears to be Russian. Ocean X Team, the company behind the discovery, said on its website: “It is unclear how old ...
Literal Cuckservatives
2015-07-28 20:30
The Dissidenti™™ and their frazzled hall monitors buzzsaw with talk about “cuckservatives.” It’s the shiv du jour, you see. As shivs go, it is in this ‘umble narrator’s opinion one of the more lethal of the semantic shanks employed by dark realists. Lovers and haters of the Cuck Shiv gird for battle (well, the haters girdle for battle). The wielders love ...
The Inevitable - The Daily Beast Begins The Personal Attacks To Tear Down Trump….
2015-07-28 19:46
Only the politically naive didn’t see this coming. The liberal outlet “The Daily Beast” begins to attack Donald Trump personally, through a method of hiding behind citations in old books and manipulating content/context delivery to attack their target. The Daily Beast takes this very specific and very strategic approach because references to the statements/opinions of others  allows them to avoid libel and ...
Residents of Dresden Wake up to Find Overnight, City Park Has Been Turned Into Migrant Camp For 2,000
2015-07-27 23:34
The German city which dared to stand-up to their government’s policy of accepting Islamisation and mass migration appears to have been punished for dissent by the zero-notice imposition of a migrant camp. Government employees stood by the entrance of a city park in Dresden, Saxony on Thursday night handing out fliers to passers-by informing them the next day the green space, ...
More News »