Saturday, November 09, 2013

David Eagleman: Brain Plasticity & Sensory Substitution


Dr. Eagleman has written several neuroscience books, including Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain and Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia. He has also written an internationally bestselling book of literary fiction, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, which has been translated into 27 languages and was named a Best Book of the Year by Barnes and Noble, New Scientist, and the Chicago Tribune. Dr. Eagleman has written for the Atlantic, New York Times, Discover, Slate, Wired, and New Scientist, and has been profiled in The New Yorker. He appears regularly on National Public Radio and BBC to discuss both science and literature.


Here is a summary of the work he discusses in this talk.


Plasticity and Sensory Substitution


Can sensory data be fed through unusual sensory channels? And can the brain learn to extract the meaning of such information streams?

Yes and yes. Sensory substitution is a non-invasive technique for circumventing the loss of one sense by feeding its information through another channel. We are leveraging this technique to develop a non-invasive, low-cost vibratory vest to allow those with deafness or severe hearing impairments to perceive auditory information through small vibrations on their torso.
(Figure from Scott Novich and David Eagleman)

To make this work, we are capitalizing on recent advances in audio codecs and digital signal processing. In parallel, we are forging new research paths to maximize the information capacity of skin--for example, by using small 'sweeps' of vibratory motors rather than a single motor that turns on and off. As it turns out, people are much better at detecting these sweeps (green data points, below):
(Data from Novich and Eagleman, under review)
 So that sets up this 22 minute talk from the recent UP Experience.
 

David Eagleman: Brain Plasticity & Sensory Substitution


In his talk, Eagleman talks about his latest study in sensory substitution and its related experiments.




David Eagleman: Brain Plasticity & Sensory Substitution from The UP Experience on FORA.tv

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist, New York Times bestselling author, and Guggenheim Fellow who holds joint appointments in the Departments of Neuroscience and Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Dr. Eagleman's areas of research include time perception, vision, synesthesia, and the intersection of neuroscience with the legal system. He directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action, and is the Founder and Director of Baylor College of Medicine's Initiative on Neuroscience and Law.


Dr. Eagleman has written several neuroscience books, including Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain and Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia. He has also written an internationally bestselling book of literary fiction, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, which has been translated into 27 languages and was named a Best Book of the Year by Barnes and Noble, New Scientist, and the Chicago Tribune. Dr. Eagleman has written for the Atlantic, New York Times, Discover, Slate, Wired, and New Scientist, and has been profiled in The New Yorker. He appears regularly on National Public Radio and BBC to discuss both science and literature.

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