Wednesday, September 13, 2006

TDU research images from ABC

story on the TDU by Mr. Alan Dean

Dear Family and friends,
On Friday, September 8, 2006 I took part in a scientific study which enablesblind persons to be able to visualize objects by stimulation of theirtongue. After being introduced to theprogram , I was seated facing a wall, 3 feet in front of me. I was allowedto feel the shape of what turned out to be a very large letter E. The aparatus, described in the article below was set in place. After a fewminutes of adjusting my head up and down and from left to right, incarefully contrived movements, I was able to visualize the letter EThis wasexhilirating and I could hear my heart beating quite loudly. This figure wasthen turned in different directions and I had to describe what I was able tovisualize. As this part of the study continued, the size of the itemswere reduced until such time I was not able to discern the shape within thetimeframe.This was the first time I could visit the world I thought haddisappeared when I lost my sight. The rest of the study is adequatelydescribed in the transcript of the segment of the Television program airedby the ABC Networkacross North America.I cannot describe the wonderful feeling I experienced yesterday. I wasoverwrought with emotion and excitement and returned home, totally exhaustedbut overjoyed that whatever the outcome will be, in my lifetime or not, thatI have made a contribution to science and with the hope that many personswill be the beneficiaries of the contribution made by the persons who haveparticipated in this study. Mike Ciarciello is not only a musician but isalso an accomplished specialist teaching blind persons how to use a computer...
Alan Dean.

Friday, September 08, 2006

ABC prime time


September 9, 2006
Transcript of program follows:September 6, 2006

- - Mike Ciarciello has been blind since birth but saysthat in his dreams he can actually see."I have had dreams where I have been flying, you know, like in the air. I amnot even bumping into any obstacles whatsoever. I am actually free, in mydreams,"he said.His dreams are closer to reality than you might imagine. He is about toparticipate in an experiment in which he will "see" by using his tongue.At the University of Montreal, researcher Daniel Chabat prepared Ciarcielloto walk for the first time through an obstacle course without his cane.Chabatbegan by mounting a small camera on Ciarciello's forehead. The camera sendselectrical impulses about what it sees to a small grid placed on his tongue."It's a concept in which you replace a sense that was lost by another onethat is there," said Maurice Ptito, the neuropsychologist supervising thestudy."They sense the world through their tongue, and that gives them the feelingof seeing. You don't see with your eyes. You see with your brain."When ABC News correspondent Bob Brown tried The BrainPort vision device inan informal experiment, his challenge was to identify black shapes placed ona wall in front of him. As the camera scanned the shapes Brown described thefeeling on his tongue as a tingling sensation."It's a pulsing sensation that imprints in a crude way the shape of theobject," he said. "The closer I move to the object, the more the feelingintensifies."The tongue is used as the source of input because it is the first organ thatwe use, Ptito said."We've been using the tongue since we were born," he said. "It's easilyaccessible; it's a wet milieu, so it's a nice conductor. So it's a reallyfine tunedmachine, so to speak."Once Ciarciello had the camera mounted and connected to the grid on histongue, he was ready to head into what for him was completely unchartedterritory:the obstacle course."I hope it's going to be a great experience in the sense that I'm able toactually walk around an object without bumping into it and at my own will,"Ciarciellosaid.As he walked through the obstacle course for the first time, he bumped intoobjects. It takes training to learn to interpret the signals on the tongue,to sense the distance of objects and whether they're on the floor or infront of him, Ptito said."It took some getting used to, because I had to basically look up and down,left and right," Ciarciello said. "I am not used to doing that in aneverydayworld-type situation."But after just two hours of training he was walking through the maze,hitting fewer and fewer obstacles. For the first time, Ciarciello was ableto senseobjects in the distance, too far away to touch. His tongue, in a sense, wassubstituting for his sight."They believe that they can see. In the sense that they appreciate thevisual world, they can see things moving around, they can see things comingto them,"Ptito said.It may be more than just a belief, because when researchers scan the brainsof sightless people who have used the device the scan shows activity in boththe visual and motion areas of the brain, showing that one sense is beingsubstituted for another.The BrainPort" vision device was developed by Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita of theUniversity of Wisconsin.

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