Science and Research

The exotic sensory capabilities of humans

The Psychologist - December, 2012
Lawrence D. Rosenblum & Michael S. Gordon

Discusses our work in a scholarly look beyond the traditional five senses, to echolocation and more.

Echolocation may have real-life advantages for blind people: an analysis of survey data

Frontiers in Integrative Physiology - May 8, 2013
By Lore Thaler, Ph.D., Durham University
Edited by Cynthia Moss, Ph.D., University of Baltimore Maryland,
Auditory neuroethology lab,

"To date there are no statistics available about how many blind people use echolocation, but anecdotal reports in the literature suggest that perhaps between 20 and 30% of totally blind people may use it, suggesting that echolocation affords broad functional benefits. ... previous research conducted under controlled experimental conditions has shown that echolocation improves blind people's spatial sensing ability. The current study investigated if there is also evidence for functional benefits of echolocation in real life. ... analyses of survey data revealed that, ... people who use echolocation have higher salary, and higher mobility in unfamiliar places, than people who do not use echolocation. ... all participants who reported to echolocate, also reported to use the long cane. This suggests that the benefit of echolocation that we found might be conditional upon the long cane being used as well. ... The data ... are consistent with the idea that echolocation offers real-life advantages for blind people, and that echolocation may be involved in peoples' successful adaptation to vision loss." "I thank Daniel Kish ... for testing the accessibility of the survey, and for input regarding survey questions. ... I thank Gordon Dutton ... for commenting on a previous version of this manuscript. Most of all, I thank the participants who took part in the survey."

Understanding The Nature Of Sensory Integration: Practical Approaches with Diverse Populations

Edited by Susanne Smith Roley, et al - 2001

This best selling compendium includes chapters by leading researchers in sensory integration (SI) based on the theory and research by Dr A Jean Ayres, together with clinical application of SI principles in treatment with diverse populations and case studies. An excellent introduction to SI theory and practice. includes reference to our work in the definition and general discussion of disability.

Spaces Speak, Are You Listening? Experiencing Aural Architecture

MIT Press © - 2007
By Professor Emeritus Barry Blesser and Linda-Ruth Salter, Ph.D.

This book investigates the impact of aural architecture on our relationship with the world, with inclusion of a scholarly discussion of our work.

Physical analysis of several organic signals for human echolocation

Acta Acustica united with Acustica - 2008, 2010, ...
By Prof. Juan Antonio Mart´inez Rojas et al, Universidad de Alcal´a, Escuela Polit´ecnica Superior

Scholarly investigations of the comparative effectiveness of various human produced echo signals, with reference to our work.

Getting around by sound: Human echolocation

Neuroanthropology: Diverse Perspectives on Science and Medicine - June, 2011
By Prof. Greg Downey | Macquarie University, Sydney

This is one of the most well considered, researched, and erudite articles about human echolocation, featuring our work and research around it. Takes a refreshing and penetrating anthropological view.

"Human echolocation is a capacity of any human being, but the extraordinary skill shown by exemplary practitioners like Daniel Kish and Ben Underwood requires much more than just a human nervous system and the right training: the skill requires a community that ‘gets it’ and supports the capacity."

"In summary, echolocation isn’t just the conjunction of a human brain, mouth, ears and objects to reflect back sound; it’s also the product of a social group and society that has its own attitudes and approaches to dealing with blindness. At the same time that people like Kish are helping to spread techniques like echolocation to an unprecedented number of individuals, we can see that other social forces might decrease the possibility of achieving this perceptual skill."

eural Correlates of Natural Human Echolocation in Early and Late Blind Echolocation Experts

PLoS ONE (Public Library of Science) - May, 2011
by Thaler L, Arnott SR, Goodale MA
University, Western Ontario

A small percentage of blind people are adept at echolocating silent objects simply by producing mouth clicks and listening to the returning echoes. The neural architecture underlying this type of human echolocation has not previously been investigated. The functional brain activity of Daniel Kish (early blind) and Brian Bushway (late blind) were measured while they listened to their own echolocation sounds. When brain activity were compared for sounds that contained both clicks and the returning echoes vs. brain activity for control sounds that did not contain the echoes, but were otherwise acoustically matched, activity was found in the visual cortex in both individuals. Importantly, for the same comparison, a difference in activity in auditory cortex was not observed. The activity in Daniel's visual cortex was found to be greater for echoes reflected from surfaces located in contralateral space - the side of the visual cortex opposite to the side at which the sound/echo was presented. These findings suggest that processing of click-echoes recruits brain regions typically devoted to vision rather than audition in both early and late blind echolocation experts, and that the patterns of processing echoes closely resemble those of processing visual input. "We thank Daniel Kish and Brian Bushway ... who acted as consultants throughout the experiments, providing invaluable technical and practical advice about echolocation and the nature of the testing materials ..." More articles about this work and related topics can be found on our "Health and Well Being" page.

"It is important to emphasize that the use of echolocation in the blind goes well beyond localizing objects in the environment. The experts we studied were also able to use echolocation to perceive object shape and motion – and even object identity. In addition, they were able to use passive listening with 10-kHz cut-off to do these kinds of tasks – which made it possible for us to probe neural substrates of their abilities. ... our data clearly show that EB and LB use echolocation in a way that seems uncannily similar to vision. In this way, our study shows that echolocation can provide blind people with a high degree of independence and self-reliance in their daily life. This has broad practical implications in that echolocation is a trainable skill that can potentially offer powerful and liberating opportunities for blind and vision-impaired people."

Modern Examinations of Echo Acuity in Blind Humans

Whitney Laboratory for Perception and Action, University of California, Berkeley

This is a series of modern studies in which World Access for the Blind consulted which examine various aspects of the acuity and resolution of echolocation in over a dozen blind humans. Many of our Perceptual Mobility Coaches and students participated.

Sonic Echolocation: A Modern Review and Synthesis of the Literature

Daniel Kish - 2003

This scholarly monograph presents an exhaustive review of the literature on human echolocation. These findings are discussed with relevance to the design of a systematic echolocation training program. The positive impact of echolocation on blind travel is thoroughly documented.

Acoustic Navigation in Premature, Blind Children

Steve Charles, MD - 2004
Charles Retina Institute

In an exclusive to our web site, Dr. Charles, world renowned vitreoretinal surgeon and engineer, documents his observations of young infants spontaneously producing oral signals for the apparent purpose of gaining navigational information.

The Sounds of Silence

from See What I'm Saying: The Extraordinary Powers of Our Five Senses - 2010
By prof. Lawrence Rosenblum, University of California Riverside,

The work of World Access for the Blind is showcased in this first Chapter which presents an in depth discussion of the power and refinement of human echolocation, and it's application for everyone, sighted and blind.
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