Seeing with one’s tongue

February 27, 2007 | By | 2 Replies More

What is the name of that organ we use to see?

The brain, of course.

Admittedly, our eyes are critically important for interpreting light rays, at least for those who have eyes that work.

For those whose eyes don’t work, however, hope is on the way. Using a special device consisting of a camera and a sensor that transmits corresponding patterns of stimulation to the tongue, blind people can learn to see surprisingly well with their tongues. This video reminded me of Daniel Dennett’s description (I believe it was in Consciousness Explained) of an earlier version of this same sort of device that consisted of a camera connected to a larger pad containing an array of stimulators that one wore on one’s abdomen. One could thus learn to “see” with one’s skin.

With a bit of thought, it is obvious that one primarily sees with the brain. Even for those with working eyes, light rays stop at the retina. Inside the brain, you certainly won’t find any tiny movie screen where they project shows with a tiny light bulb.

Anyway, here’s the video. Such a testament to the plasticity of the brain and a reminder that we ultimately see with our brains, regardless of how those light rays are initially encountered.


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Category: Psychology Cognition, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Dr. Smug says:

    People who become blind at a young age, end up devoping alternative means of operating. Essentially, they adapt to their environments when given support. However this "support" may actually come in the form of allowing the blind person plenty of independence. Such is the case with blind children who develop echo-location skills by making clicking noises, and map their surroundings with the echoes. If you give it a try with your eyes closed, you can get the idea, but these folks are able to discern texture, distance, and even ride rollerblades blind. In fact, this kid doesn't consider himself blind…

  2. Marc says:

    If you could 'see' with your skin, would it not be a very different sense than sight? It would be 360, like an insect's. I recall a similar effect being soimething in 'Call of Cthulhu' and costing Sanity points.

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