In the meantime… (#3)

Coincidence is a funny thing. It doesn’t have to do anything with accessibility though but it does have to do with how this post was written.

Some days ago, scanning at my Facebook feed I came across an article from scientific american about people with disabilities and superpowers. For all the comic fans out there, it doesn’t have to do with any of the classic heroes such as superman, spiderman, wonder woman, or anyone else. The only superhero refered that happens to match the story of the article is Daredevil who happens to be blind.

The article explains what was recently published in an article in The Journal of Neuroscience. The study began with the simple hypothesis that people with disabilities tend to have bigger sensitivity and “power” in their remaining senses. A blind person for example, usually hears a lot better and clearer that a sighted one. The researchers in the University of Oregon managed to explain this phenomenon by finding out that when a part fo the brain is not used because of the loss of a sense then it is possible for the brain to “rewire” the specific part and connect it with remaining senses. This means  that brain areas connected with hearing in a blind person for example can take more space than usual so his hearing abilities increase.

I thought that this is something I should write about, so I noted down the page and tried to schedule a post in the coming days… until I saw Simon Harper blogging about a presentation he gave at the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) at the Technical University of Lisbon (UTL) in Lisbon which was about adapting interfaces to suit our needs. When I reached the end of his slides I realised that he also raised questions related to how people with disabilities sense the world and how can we use this knowledge to adapt interfaces to suit our needs.

The key word connecting the two stories is Neuroscience. Understanding how the human brain works is going to open up horizons of research and applications that we never imagined. The road is not an easy one but it’s out there waiting. I just wonder… how many years will it take?

PS. Enough sci-fi for today… I’m going to watch the new spiderman film now.

PS2. I know that understanding the human brain is not an easy thing and it can also become very dangerous too but looking at the pace of evolution in genetics and the contribution of computing science in that direction we can imagine that it’s just of matter of time until something similar happen for neuroscience.

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One Response to In the meantime… (#3)

  1. I knew the theory of a missing sense often causes another one to compensate. When I lost nearly all of my senses at the same time, I paid specific attention to this. (I studied psychology and then had a stroke in my 20’s.) As senses returned one by one, I was truly able to see the compensation that happened. Now that I have recovered I am awed at how some of the abilities have remained heightened. Maybe some of those returning senses still take up a little extra room?

    Very interesting article.

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