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Researchers Find How the Brain Hears Shapes

A new research by a Harvard Medical school researcher has shown how the brain hears shapes and how it can activate a particular area in the brain called LOtv that lights up when one identifies an objects shape.

As part of their research, Amir Amedi and his team taught seven sighted volunteers to use a device called The vOICe, which converts visual details into sound, using pitch to represent up and down, and volume to reflect brightness.

The team then performed fMRI scans of the volunteers' brains, plus those of two expert blind users of the device, as they listened to these soundscapes.

The scientists also scanned seven controllers, who had been taught to associate specific soundscapes with certain shapes, but not how to interpret them.

The team found that the LOtv only lit up in the skilled users who were actually decoding the soundscapes, and not in those just associating them with shapes.

Sounds made by the objects, such as the sound of a bouncing ball, produced no such effect, the study revealed.

According to Amedi, the finding suggests the brain may not care about the mode of input as much as people previously assumed.

The LOtv is clearly driven by the presence of shape, but it doesn't care whether the input is visual, tactile or auditory, said Amedi.

Amedi is now hoping that the vOICe device might one day help blind people "see".

"It was a huge activation. I think they're seeing, New Scientist quoted Amedi as saying.

The findings appear in the journal Nature Neuroscience.


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