Blind as a bat: echolocating humans use visual brain regions

PSYCHOLOGISTS have for the first time investigated the neural processes underlying the ability of some blind people to locate objects by producing mouth clicks and listening for the returning echoes, just like bats and dolphins do. 

Comparing MRI scans of two echolocators with sighted controls, they found the processing of click echoes was “uncannily similar to vision”, occurring in areas of the brain associated with vision rather than hearing.

“This has broad practical implications in that echolocation is a trainable skill that can potentially offer… liberating opportunities for blind and vision-impaired people,” they said.

PloS One 2011, online 25 May