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Can people who are born blind "see" things in their minds?

 
 
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 08:21 pm
Can people who have always been blind picture things that they've never seen before? I assume some image pops into their heads if they run their hands over an object like a coffee table or a statue or a person's face, but I wonder if they can actually imagine that thing as it is, or if it's just a vague shape in their mind. Is image even the right term to use here? What do you think?
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Type: Question • Score: 9 • Views: 18,498 • Replies: 21
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 09:22 pm
@kickycan,
Not images.

They would have their own ways of conceptualizing things.
0 Replies
 
gungasnake
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 09:36 pm
@kickycan,
The standard answer appears to be no.

Nonetheless I have two basic kinds of dreams, i.e. dreams in which I am me and I see people and things which relate to me somehow or other, and then dreams in which I see people and events I'd never heard of before and in those dreams I could be me or occasionally some other person. The first kind of dream seems to be my mind simply unwinding; the second kind could conceivably be my mind acting like a radio receiver and picking up other peopls's experiences.

If a blind person were to have one of those kinds of dreams, it strikes me at least possible that he might see things since he'd be basically seeing through other people's eyes.


ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 09:43 pm
@kickycan,
This is a fairly creepy question for me.
Still, much has happened re persons dealing with nada, starting with nada and moving to nada - much science.

Which, I post, by way of bookmark.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 08:21 am
@kickycan,
Dlowan put it well.

You have to build pathways between the stimulus (sight, sound, touch) and creating meaning from it, and if the "sight" pathway isn't already there, the stimulus will be processed differently.

Example: I am considered a prime candidate for a cochlear implant because I could hear for a long time, and because the pathways are there. My brain knows what to do with sound. I "hear" things even though I don't actually hear them -- the analogue to a blind person picturing things if they run their hands over them.

That's what we do, as sighted people -- we close our eyes and feel things and then an image pops into our heads -- "oh, that's a spoon" or whatever.

But people who are born deaf are considered less ideal candidates for cochlear implants, especially later in life, because the pathways aren't there. If a sound is conveyed to their brains via the implant, their brains won't necessarily know what to do with that sound.

Does that make sense?
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 02:48 pm
agreeing with osso.

not really so much creepy, as disquieting.

I'm trying to imagine what someone born blind experiences in a dream.

Anyone read that H.G. Wells short story, I think it's called "in the land of the blind?"

I can feel this keyboard, and objects within my reach. I can remember the feel of other things in my environment, though I cannot touch them at the moment.

How would one experience the Grand Canyon, the stars and the moon?

How would you know it was real?
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 03:05 pm
@sozobe,
sozobe wrote:

Example: I am considered a prime candidate for a cochlear implant because I could hear for a long time, and because the pathways are there.


Not to pry, but have you ever considered the implant? You don't have to answer if you don't want.

I could very much understand why you wouldn't want one. Like it's saying you weren't, um, valid enough without hearing.

I was watching a show once about conjoined twins. One set of twins, who could not be separated for medical reasons, were asked if they would get separated if it was possible.

They responded "no" because, why? Would it make either or both of them more of an individual? Would it make either of them a better person?
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 03:29 pm
@gungasnake,
It would be quite difficult to figure out how, even in the event of a telepathic image being received by their brain, a blind from birth person would see anything with an undeveloped visual area of their brain.

0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 03:34 pm
@chai2,
We don't "know" it's real now.

It's all just nerve impulses from our sensorium which get made sense of in our brains, whether it's from eyes, ears, touch, taste and smell, or just from touch and taste and smell and sound.

Blind from birth people would have a different way of conceptualising the world....but it's all just conceptualising.

It's hard to imagine the world they have, because we privilege sight so much. It is a lot easier for us to imabine a world without one of the other senses, I think.
0 Replies
 
High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 03:37 pm
@kickycan,
Sure they can, assuming they have a fully functional neuronically linked brain. We can "see" electromagnetic frequencies from the deepest infrared to the farthest cosmic rays - near infrared being, of course, heat - though not with our eyes, simply as concepts, translated by the frontal cortex as "images".

To sum up" images" are no problem, blind people can grasp them; epigenetic characteristics like identification aka "seeing" individual colors are a problem, since they cover only 4K to 8K Angstrom and there's no biologically viable representation for them.

Caution: above is based on AI analysis (like telling Mars rovers should they continue or back up) and no medical content is intended or implied.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 03:52 pm
@High Seas,
Unused parts of the brain tend to atrophy after their critical period, so blind from birth people would NOT have a fully functioning neuronically linked brain for vision.

The seeing is what CAUSES the linking to develop properly.



High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 04:00 pm
@dlowan,
That's long-established, but what's new is that "atrophy" and "die" aren't at all identical, from either the purely biological standpoint (new brain cells are created all the time) or from the networking (traffic creates deeper and more marked paths, in brains as in all things), or, finally, in the electrochemichal part of brains (ie not shared by machinery, with the exclusion of batteries) in generating chemical transmitters to facilitate electricity flows.

AND true AI means those little Mars rovers (and satellite language intercepts, and so on) can LEARN on the same pathways principles as the electrochemical paths in brains - human, animal, plant, even single-cell organisms can learn.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 04:12 pm
@High Seas,
No, I know.

But what is being discussed here is not whether a person blind from birth might LEARN to see if the organic means of sight were to be repaired, but whether they see images in their blind state.

Mame
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 04:20 pm
Bringing it back down to the lay person, I would imagine they could not SEE things, just as if a born-deaf person could not imagine HEARING something. Things could be described to them, but I think the descriptions would be pretty meaningless to them. I suspect they know the object through their other senses in a way we wouldn't even begin to understand.

If you were to describe a horse to a born-blind person, what would be the point? "It has four legs" - okay, what shape? What length? How long is the hair on it? What is the hoof like? How hard is hard? They'd never have seen a leg in the first place, so they'd probably "picture" it as like their own, which they only know through touch. And colours would likely be the most difficult of all - sort of like trying to describe a sound to a born-deaf person.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 04:28 pm
@chai2,
Not prying, don't worry....

Yeah, I consider it at regular intervals... still not there yet though. I think I might get there as the technology improves.

It's not an identity thing for me, just a bottom-line/ efficiency thing. They're usually not very effective. Sometimes they are, and that's what I'm keeping an eye on. But what I see over and over again is that they provide sound but not useful sound. People know that a sound is being made but they can't tell if a bird or a train is making it. Or they know that someone is knocking on the door (useful) but they can't understand speech.

Meanwhile, I spent a couple of hours chatting with my (hearing) friend today with no problem.

It's too expensive, medically risky, invasive and labor-intensive (they require a lot of training once you get them) for me to get one unless I'm pretty confident that it'll improve my quality of life, and I'm not confident of that yet. (Again, they continue to improve, so I haven't closed any doors permanently.)
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 04:42 pm
@sozobe,
In what way are they getting better, Soz?
Mame
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 04:52 pm
Here's a pretty good site.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochlear_implants
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 04:52 pm
@dlowan,
The useful sound thing, mostly. There is a lot of complicated techie stuff about channels etc. that I read, digest, come to a conclusion about, and then put away until I go on my next research binge, so I can't really regurgitate it coherently. Can get some stuff if you're curious though.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 05:00 pm
@sozobe,
Don't worry...I'll look up the wiki link given and have a scout around.
0 Replies
 
High Seas
 
  2  
Reply Fri 6 Mar, 2009 02:43 pm
@dlowan,
As I said my background isn't medical, but I do know the brain-mapping-to-computer project has been underway since at least the early '70s (in various guises, applications, versions, names) and still gets nowhere while gobbling up research money:

"...the brain actually works by constantly creating, breaking, and tweaking the synaptic connections between neurons. Although today’s computers may excel at complex challenges with clear rules, like chess, they fail at simple tasks that require strategy, sensation, perception, and learning..."
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/tag/animal-intelligence/

Strategy and learning have been taught to machines; they're plugged into any number of "sensors", as in measuring equipment. But "sensation" is biology. Nobody knows how to program it.
0 Replies
 
 

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