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Blind Children of India Helping Scientists See Into the Brain


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MIT professor Pawan Sinha

On the wall of MIT professor Pawan Sinha's office are pictures of some of the children whose sight has been restored.

Courtesy of Karen Weintraub

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers are working with more than 300,000 blind children living in the Indian subcontinent to treat their blindness and learn more about how the brain processes visual information and what goes awry with that processing in autism and other disorders.

The research also is leading to advances in robotics, as computer scientists develop new algorithms for how the human brain sees. "When people succeed in combining that desire to learn and real health-provision service, that is fantastic," says Harvard Medical School professor Alvaro Pascual-Leone.

In exchange for receiving treatment for the ailments that cause blindness, the children are observed, given magnetic resonance imaging scans before and after surgery, and questioned by the MIT researchers. "In our experience, the children actually enjoy doing these tests and treat them like fun games," says MIT's Pawan Sinha, who is leading the research.

Pascual-Leone says there has, up to now, been no systematic analysis on a large group who all gained sight after years of visual impairment.

From The Boston Globe
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