Research Highlight

Touch and sight disparity

doi:10.1038/nindia.2011.60 Published online 27 April 2011

After gaining sight through treatment, congenitally blind children are unable to visually identify a thing or shape they have previously known only by touch, according to new research. The research addresses a three-centuries-old question and has important implications for bimodal perception.

The researchers tested the ability of five congenitally blind children whose vision was restored by treatment in a New Delhi hospital. They tried to find out if these children could visually match an object to a sample they had earlier touched and felt. The researchers used a stimulus set of 20 pairs of simple three-dimensional forms drawn from a children's shape set.

The children were found to lack immediate recognition. The 'newly sighted' subjects did not exhibit an immediate transfer of their tactile shape knowledge to the visual domain. "However, this ability can apparently be acquired after short real-world experiences," the researchers say.

They say some important questions on the issue remain open. Such as whether the newly sighted would have shown an immediate transfer from touch to vision if they possessed three-dimensional visual representations right from sight onset.

The authors of this work are from: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA; Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands; Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi and Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, India.


  1. Held, R. et al. The newly sighted fail to match seen with felt. Nat. Neurosci. 14, 551-553 (2011) | Article | PubMed |