Can We Restore Sight For The Blind?

Can We Restore Sight For The Blind?

Think restoring sight to the blind is only
a bible story? Think again… Hey there science fans! Dr. Kiki from This
Week in Science here for DNews. The brain is a wild and crazy place. For years,
scientists have thought that there are periods of time during childhood, called critical
periods, when we have to have certain kinds of experience in order for our senses to develop
properly. For our visual sense, studies suggest that
the critical period for correcting any kind of deficiency lasts from birth until about
2 years old. After 2 years old, visual problems like amblyopia – or lazy eye – for instance,
can still be reversed, but the success rate decreases the older you get. And, there seems
to be a big difference when treatments are attempted after around age 6. The idea of critical periods in vision was
first tested by David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel in the 1960’s by sewing kitten’s eyes
shut and measuring brain activity in the visual cortex. Totally gruesome, I know. Anyway, they found that the neural pathways
connected to the closed eye were withered in comparison to the normal eye, and that
they never developed vision in that eye, even after the eye was reopened months later. Because
adult cats have fully developed visual systems, sight could be restored even after a year
of having an eye sewed shut. Hubel and Weisel won a Nobel Prize for this work. The concept of critical periods has to do
with the idea that “cells that fire together, wire together.” If your brain doesn’t
get that early experience of visual stimulation, the neural pathways for vision won’t have
a reason to link up and create the system for vision. In fact, it’s been shown that the visual
cortex itself begins to respond to other sensory input, like sound and touch. You might have
heard of blind people who use a form of echolocation that involves using clicks and echoes to get
around, even while riding a bike. Brain imaging shows that the brains of these people are
reorganized so that they “see” the landscape based on what they hear. So, knowing that the brain reorganizes in
this way, with other senses taking up the neural real estate for vision, can that process
be reversed or is it really permanent? An exciting study published in the Journal of
Neurophysiology this week by a research team from the Universite de Montreal and the University
of Trento suggests that it can… kind of. The team imaged the brain of a 50-year-old
woman both before and after she underwent surgery to implant an artificial cornea, called
a Boston Keratoprosthesis, in her right eye. The woman had extremely low levels of vision
her entire life, and compared to people with normal sight and those who lost their sight
later in life, she had both structural and functional reorganization of the visual cortex. Before the surgery, the visual area responded
to auditory input. However, after the surgery, there was a significant reduction in the auditory
response, but it wasn’t total, even after 7 months. So, this study and others along these lines
suggest that some of the brain shaping that takes place during the critical periods of
development is permanent, but some of it can be reversed. The trick now will be discovering
what makes the difference. Do you want to help sight restoration research
happen? You can! By donating to Fight For Sight, an organization that supports and inspires
research in vision and related sciences by granting funds to scientists early in their
careers. What do you think of research like this? Does
it give you hope? Tell us in the comments below or you can find
me on Twitter at Dr. Kiki. And be sure to subscribe to DNews for more science every

94 comments / Add your comment below

  1. … I was literally just now watching videos of blind people seeing for the first time…

    Also did you guys have to bring up religion at the beginning? You're just begging for flamewars.

  2. Just shows that the nature is a need base system use it or lose it. If you have a need nature adapts to those needs. 

  3. I suffer from PVD, that is 95% chance of developing into PRD. so this is good to know we're on the right track to restore vision.

  4. She looks like she just woke up. Bags under here eyes, Shitty hair, shirt not fully buttoned. Oh wait, maybe she's just too old and should not be shown in HD.

  5. Hey, being able to "see" with both eyes and ears sounds pretty cool. Someone turns out the light? I can just close my eyes and start clicking around with my mouth and ears.

  6. So you could regain your vision, but in the process you will lose your house, car, and pretty much end up homeless.

    But hey, at least you can see now.

  7. Sometimes I walk around the house without any form of lambency. So I can imagine myself as Matt Murdock. I like to jump down the stairwell in complete darkness.

  8. She's wrong. Bats are not blind. I did a research paper on them when I was in third grade and I remember what I wrote. Sorry to those who think they actually are blind.. It just means you need to do more research. 🙂

  9. DDN needs to hire Dr. Kiki to run this show. She has the background and the presentation/communication skills to make the science behind the story approachable. Great video!

  10. Being half blind since about age 3, this intrigues me greatly… however my situation is fairly unique and I have yet to find any research about my condition. Cataract at age 2 and a half / 3yo, was not removed till age 9 because I was considered to young for surgery… critical eye development during that time period wired me to see fuzzy. Theoretically, I could replace my 20/500 eye with a 20/20 eye and I'd still see 20/500 because my brain is wired to see that way….. I'm told this is irreversible but I'd love to see some research on if it might be possible to correct this condition?

    I've learned to live with my disability… and luckily its not in my dominant eye, but having no peripheral vision out my left side sucks and I can't see 3D movies to save my life =/

  11. I once saw a report of a doctor "fixing"the optic nerve with stem cells of a permanently blind woman who drank methanol.

  12. The host is awesome but wait if I understand this correctly that lady that underwent the eye surgery could hear something and think she's seeing something……that's kinda cool

  13. Africa for the Africans, Asia for the Asians but White countries for EVERYBODY! Thats GENOCIDE

    Mass immigration and FORCED assimilation into ALL and ONLY White countries is #whitegenocide  
    Nobody is trying to make All and Only Black countries "melting pots"
    Nobody is trying to make All and Only Asian counties "melting pots"
    All and Only White countries are expected to become "melting pots" and thats #Whitegenocide  

    "Anti-racist" is a code word for anti-White
    "Diversity" is a code word for White genocide

  14. so would it help for people who technically don't have problems with the eye itself but have problems with the optic nerves and other stuff behind the eye?

  15. Issac from the fualt in our stars " when they invent something for me to see again, like a bionic robot eye. I still dont want to see a world without Gus" issac you can get your eyes now! #Fualtinourstars

  16. I can see perfectly fine… But I have a weirdness to my ears… I could use bounce location.. to detect things around me… But… I'm not blind at all…? Why is This?

  17. Please, PLEASE LEAVE.. I don't have anything against you, I swear to god. But just get the old dnews team back,WHY THE HELL DID YOU GUYS FIRE THEM

  18. Lol @ all the angry socialists. Meanwhile kitten torturers win Nobel prizes. Not that it takes that much to "win" one these days obvsly.

  19. Poor kittens humans are so greedy and selfish. We only care about ourselves not others. We put ourselves on top of others just because we're computer smart, animals have feelings too you know. Just watch, nature is more powerful than pathetic coward humans. Put humans in a forest with nothing but themselves see how long they last.

  20. I mean… I get the video is interesting and cool but… I'm just stuck on the fact they sewed the poor kittens eyes shut. Ugh, anything for science eh?

  21. Wait, so can blind people "see" through actual echolocation, or some sort of synthesisia, where they can see sounds.

  22. Whenever they ask to donate to them to help blind people, I always think first stop the wars, stop poverty and hunger and then we can help blind people and the disabled etc…

  23. We need to legally enable scientists to research stem cells, so that we can help our disabled peopled. It's 2015; isn't it time to set aside antiquated religious beliefs for as better future?

  24. How can scientist be so cruel to kittens I am crying right now ( not kidding ) bc sowing kittens eyes shut f you scientist what did the poor kittens ever do to you ??

  25. No more research, I don't want more kittens to get hurt ? I accually started crying when she said what they did to kittens I'm not kidding I literally cried ?

  26. Si fuera en español o por lo menos subtitulado al español estaría perfecto 😉
    Tristemente no esta esa opción :c
    Pero igualmente esta padre… 😀

  27. I hope I can get more sight on my left eye, ice worn glares since infancy and I'd love to wake up and see clearly! My left eye is too bad for Lasix surgery though so I'm sick with glasses or contacts..

  28. what does this mean for optic nerve damage I had my optic nerve damage about six months ago when I lost my vision however I hope that it could be improved is there something out there that could probably help me

  29. All I can think of is how the experience would be seeing for the first time.

    I’ve always been able to see so I can’t imagine the concept on how divine nature would be.

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