blind can see: Indian science sheds light
Poverty and neglect mean that only half the cases of curable blindness
in India are treated. Yet this is also where doctors and patients
are revolutionising one of the most basic concepts of visual neuroscience.
this article, Apoorva Mandavilli describes the work of Project
Prakash, run by Pawan Sinha, a neuroscientist from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology in the United States, in collaboration
with Dr Shroff’s Charitable Eye Hospital in New Delhi, India.
medical knowledge says that if a child's blindness is not treated
before they turn eight, they will be blind for life. That cut-off
point was thought to be the end of the critical period for the
development of the visual brain.
work dramatically challenges this notion.
sight of one 29-year-old patient has improved dramatically since
July 2004. The extent to which his brain has adapted, allowing
him to piece together patches of colour and brightness and recognise
them as objects, has amazed scientists.
work with blind people has shown the brain can learn to use what
vision it has, and different visual abilities — such as understanding
colour and dimension — might develop over different periods of
2003 Project Prakash has screened hundreds of children for sight
problems and, crucially, undermined the notion of irreversible