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New sound navigation technology enables the blind to navigate

Sequence of tasks in fMRI experiments in virtual and real navigation training with the EyeCane. (A) The paradigm within the scanner; there were three types of blocks on which both groups were tested, while the training was performed only on one block and only by the blind group. The 3 blocks were maze 1 training (on which blind were trained), maze 2 no training (on which blind were not trained), and a scrambled task (used as control task). Each block was repeated 4 times per run, and there were 2 runs on each scanning day. (B) The experimental protocol consisted of a pre-training fMRI scan, followed by 3 days of training in both real and virtual environments and a post-training scan. (C) The EyeCane device, a unique visual to auditory sensory substitution device (SSD) that maps distance information into sounds. (D) Setup of maze 1 training; numbers correspond to errors rate and are based on deviation from the correct path. (E) Setup of the novel maze 2 no training; numbers correspond to errors rate and are based on deviation from the correct path. (F) Heatmaps of the path taken by the CB pre-training, CB post-training, and sighted groups in maze 1 training during the scan for each of the groups. The heatmap represents the amount of time spent by each participant in the different areas of the maze for both the PRE (pre-training) and POST (post-training) conditions. The time spent in each point was defined by calculating the time between 2 key strokes (a key stroke represents a step), see STAR Methods. Hotter colors indicate that on average, participants in that group spent more time in that location. The heatmaps show that in the post-training condition, the blind participants were able to find the exit to the maze similarly to the sighted. credits: Current Biology (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2023.02.025

A new study by researchers at Reichman University’s Brain Cognition and Technology Institute directed by Prof. Amir Amedi has shown that visual navigation areas in the brain can be activated using sound. By traversing mazes using sound information instead of visual information after training, visual navigation areas were activated.

This finding has numerous exciting implications, among them the findings chip away at the Nobel Prize winning theory of critical periods and provide new avenues for cognitive training to potentially detect and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The team conducted a series of studies over

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