People's Senses Are Ever-Adjustable

"You are born with a variety of sensory inputs," he says, but they all have to talk the same language. Those organs most likely were not "in sync" at birth.

"Why would they be calibrated when you were born?" he asks. "You've never seen before, and you've never heard before."

But even as infants, we see mom speaking, and see that she is above and slightly to the right, thus using our vision to calibrate our hearing. Eventually, we don't need our eyes to determine the location of the source of the sound. Our ears have learned how to do it, even in the dark.

Persons who are born blind probably achieve the same thing at a much slower pace by trial and error, Paige suggests.

Paige's research, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the international Human Frontiers Science Program, took it a step further. He wanted to see if the eyes continue their role as teacher, even as we grow older.

So his students spent days wandering around with weird glasses and distorted vision to see if they could adapt to a new world order. It turns out it was a piece of cake.

Within a couple of days, Brimijoin says, sounds no longer seemed to be coming from the wrong place. He didn't have to think about it anymore. His sensors had all been re-calibrated, allowing him to function about as well as he had before.

"Pretty soon you don't even think about it anymore," Paige says. "It becomes part of your new world order. That demonstrates that the eyes are the teacher."

Lee Dye’s column appears weekly on A former science writer for the Los Angeles Times, he now lives in Juneau, Alaska.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...