Other ways of seeing: from behavior to neural mechanisms in the online "visual" control of action with sensory substitution

Michael J. Proulx, James Gwinnutt, Sara Dell'Erba, Shelly Levy-Tzedek, Alexandra A. de Sousa, David J. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (SciVal)
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Vision is the dominant sense for perception-for-action in humans and other higher primates. Advances in sight restoration now utilize the other intact senses to provide information that is normally sensed visually through sensory substitution to replace missing visual information. Sensory substitution devices translate visual information from a sensor, such as a camera or ultrasound device, into a format that the auditory or tactile systems can detect and process, so the visually impaired can see through hearing or touch. Online control of action is essential for many daily tasks such as pointing, grasping and navigating, and adapting to a sensory substitution device successfully requires extensive learning. Here we review the research on sensory substitution for vision restoration in the context of providing the means of online control for action in the blind or blindfolded. It appears that the use of sensory substitution devices utilizes the neural visual system; this suggests the hypothesis that sensory substitution draws on the same underlying mechanisms as unimpaired visual control of action. Here we review the current state of the art for sensory substitution approaches to object recognition, localization, and navigation, and the potential these approaches have for revealing a metamodal behavioral and neural basis for the online control of action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-44
Number of pages17
JournalRestorative Neurology and Neuroscience
Issue number1
Early online date30 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2015


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