Dec 23

A man who was left completely blind by multiple strokes has been able to navigate an obstacle course using only his “sense” of where hazards lie.

The feat is an example of “blindsight”, the ability of some blind people to sense things that they cannot see.

Scientists already knew that the man, known only as TN, reacted to facial expressions that he could not see.

Brain scans showed that he could recognise expressions including fear, anger and joy in other people.

However, he is totally blind and normally walks using a stick to alert himself to objects in his path.

To test the extend of his blindsight, scientists constructed an obstacle course made up of boxes and chairs arranged in a random pattern.

Not only was TN able to safely manoeuvre the course he did not bump into a single box or chair.

Professor Beatrice de Gelder, from the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands, who led the study, said: “This is absolutely the first study of this ability in humans.

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Aug 29

Deaf people could one day have their hearing restored through a groundbreaking gene therapy technique, a new study suggests.

The transfer of a specific gene is shown today by a milestone experiment to trigger the growth of new hair cells in the inner ear – the usually irreplaceable sensory cells that pick up sound vibrations and that are lost as a result of ageing, disease, certain drugs, and by excessive exposure to loud sound.

The approach, which one day could help millions of people worldwide with deafness and inner-ear disease, is made possible by a technique that is demonstrated in the journal Nature by an American team lead by Dr John Brigande of the Oregon Hearing Research Centre, Portland, who himself is profoundly hard of hearing.

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