People"s awareness of their surroundings and the space they are in is not only triggered by their sight, according to research carried out in Scotland.
According to researchers at the University of Edinburgh, the brain can use other senses, such as touch, to help us understand spatial awareness, and claim the development could lead to new treatments for people with vision problems.
For the study, scientists used MRI brain scans of both sighted volunteers and people who had been blind since birth, with both groups asked to feel three-dimensional Lego models which represented a geometric layout of a room, as well as models of abstract objects containing no enclosed spaces.
In addition, the sighted subjects were asked to look at photographs of the same rooms and objects.
Subsequent scans of the volunteers" brains carried out by the experts showed that activity in the part of the brain that computes the spatial layout of a scene was doubled for sighted volunteers when they looked at images of a room layout compared with abstract objects.
According to the experts, this highlights that other senses contribute significantly to people"s awareness of the space they are in.
In other research, US researchers recently compared the heart attack and stroke rates of people with and without retinal vein occlusion and discovered that the incidence was almost twice as high in those with the eye condition.
by Martin Burns