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Recovery from blindness

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   Recovery from blindness is the phenomenon of a blind person gaining the
   ability to see, usually as a result of medical treatment. As a thought
   experiment, the phenomenon is usually referred to as Molyneux's
   problem. It is often stated that the first published human case was
   reported in 1728 by the surgeon William Cheselden. However, there is no
   evidence that Cheselden's patient, a boy named Daniel Dolins, actually
   recovered any vision.^[1] Patients who experience dramatic recovery
   from blindness experience significant to total agnosia, having serious
   confusion with their visual perception.
   [ ]


     * 1 As a thought experiment
     * 2 Early cases
     * 3 Examples and case studies
          + 3.1 Virgil
          + 3.2 Sidney Bradford
          + 3.3 Michael May
          + 3.4 Shirl Jennings
          + 3.5 Shander Herian
     * 4 Modern history
     * 5 See also
     * 6 Notes
     * 7 References
     * 8 External links

As a thought experiment[edit]

   Main article: Molyneux's problem

   The phenomenon has often been presented in empiricism as a thought
   experiment, in order to describe the knowledge gained from senses, and
   question the correlation between different senses.

   John Locke, an 18th-century philosopher, speculated that if a blind
   person developed vision, he would not at first connect his idea of a
   shape with the sight of a shape. That is, if asked which was the cube
   and which was the sphere, he would not be able to do so, or even guess.

   The question was originally posed to him by philosopher William
   Molyneux, whose wife was blind:^[2]

     Suppose a man born blind, and now adult, and taught by his touch to
     distinguish between a cube and a sphere of the same metal, and
     nighly of the same bigness, so as to tell, when he felt one and the
     other, which is the cube, which is the sphere. Suppose then the cube
     and the sphere placed on a table, and the blind man made to see:
     query, Whether by his sight, before he touched them, he could now
     distinguish and tell which is the globe, which the cube? To which
     the acute and judicious proposer answers: 'Not. For though he has
     obtained the experience of how a globe, and how a cube, affects his
     touch; yet he has not yet attained the experience, that what affects
     his touch so or so, must affect his sight so or so...'

   In 1709, in A New Theory of Vision, George Berkeley also concluded that
   there was no necessary connection between a tactile world and a sight
   world--that a connection between them could be established only on the
   basis of experience. He speculated:

     the objects to which he had hitherto used to apply the terms up and
     down, high and low, were such as only affected or were in some way
     perceived by touch; but the proper objects of vision make a new set
     of ideas, perfectly distinct and different from the former, and
     which can in no sort make themselves perceived by touch (sect. 95).

   This thought experiment (it was a thought experiment at the time)
   outlines the debate between rationalism and empiricism; to what degree
   our knowledge of the world comes from reason or experience.

Early cases[edit]

   There are many stories or anecdotes of the phenomenon, preceding the
   first documented case, including one from the year 1020, of a man of
   thirty operated upon in Arabia.^[3]

   Before the first known human cases, some tests were done rearing
   animals in darkness, to deny them vision for months or years, then
   discover what they see when given light. A. H. Reisen found severe
   behavioural losses in such experiments; but they might have been due to
   degeneration of the retina.^[4]

   The first known case of published recovery from blindness is often
   stated to be that described in a 1728 report of a blind 13-year-old boy
   operated by William Cheselden.^[5] Cheselden presented the celebrated
   case of the boy of thirteen who was supposed to have gained his sight
   after couching of congenital cataracts. In 2021, the name of
   Cheselden's patient was reported for the first time: Daniel Dolins.^[1]
   As it happens, philosopher George Berkeley knew the Dolins family, had
   numerous social links to Cheselden, including the poet Alexander Pope,
   and Princess Caroline, to whom Cheselden's patient was presented.^[1]
   The report misspelled Cheselden's name, used language typical of
   Berkeley, and may even have been ghost-written by Berkeley.^[1] Despite
   his youth, the boy encountered profound difficulties with the simplest
   visual perceptions. Described by "Chesselden":

     When he first saw, he was so far from making any judgment of
     distances, that he thought all object whatever touched his eyes (as
     he expressed it) as what he felt did his skin, and thought no object
     so agreeable as those which were smooth and regular, though he could
     form no judgment of their shape, or guess what it was in any object
     that was pleasing to him: he knew not the shape of anything, nor any
     one thing from another, however different in shape or magnitude; but
     upon being told what things were, whose form he knew before from
     feeling, he would carefully observe, that he might know them

   Unfortunately, Dolins was never able to see well enough to read, and
   there is no evidence that the surgery improved Dolins' vision at any
   point prior to his death at age 30.^[1] A total of 66 early cases of
   patients who underwent cataract operations were reviewed by Marius von
   Senden in his German 1932 book, which was later translated into English
   under the title Space and sight.^[7] In this book, von Senden argues
   that shapes, sizes, lengths and distances are difficult for blind
   people to judge, including for a time after their operation.

Examples and case studies[edit]


   In his book, An Anthropologist On Mars (1995), neurologist Oliver Sacks
   recounts the story of Virgil, a man who saw very little until having
   cataract surgery at age 50. Virgil's subsequent behavior was that of a
   "mentally blind" person--someone who sees but cannot decipher what is
   out there; he would act as if he were still blind. Often confused,
   Virgil rapidly sank into depression.^[8]

Sidney Bradford[edit]

   In 1974, Richard Gregory described a patient, Sidney Bradford, a
   52-year-old who gained vision from corneal grafts to both eyes. No
   experimental psychologist was informed of the case until after the
   corneal grafting took place. His operation was able to reveal
   idiosyncrasies of the human visual system. For example, not having
   grown up with vision, Bradford did not perceive the ambiguity of the
   Necker cube. Nor was he able to interpret the perspective of
   two-dimensional art.

   Nevertheless, he could accurately judge the distance to objects in the
   same room, having been familiar with these distances before regaining
   sight by virtue of having walked them. In a similar analogy between
   vision and sightless (touch-only) experience, Bradford was able to
   visually read the time on the ward clock just after his operation.
   Before surgery Bradford was a machinist, but even after acquiring
   vision preferred working with his eyes closed to identify tools. He
   died two years after his operation due to a prolonged period of ill
   health, with no specific cause of death noted.^[9]^[10]^[11]

Michael May[edit]

   Main article: Mike May (skier)

   Michael G. "Mike" May (born 1954) was blinded by a chemical explosion
   at the age of 3 but regained partial vision in 2000, at 46, after
   corneal transplantation and a pioneering stem cell procedure by San
   Francisco ophthalmologist Daniel Goodman.^[12] May had a stem-cell
   transplant in his right eye in 2001 when he was 43, after 40 years of
   blindness. He reportedly has adapted well to his recovered vision.
     * May still has no intuitive grasp of depth perception. As people
       walk away from him, he perceives them as literally shrinking in
     * He has problems distinguishing male from female faces, and
       recognizing emotional expressions on unfamiliar faces.^[8]

   The effect of visual loss has an impact in the development of the
   visual cortex of the brain. The visual impairment causes the occipital
   lobe to lose its sensitivity in perceiving spatial processing. Sui and
   Morley (2008) proposed that after seven days of visual deprivation, a
   potential decrease in vision may occur. They also found an increasing
   visual impairment with deprivation after 30 days and 120 days. This
   study suggests that the function of the brain depends on visual input.
   May lost his eyesight at age three, when his vision was still not fully
   developed to distinguish shapes, drawings or images clearly. It would
   be difficult for him to be able to describe the world compared to a
   normal sighted person. For instance, May would have trouble
   differentiating complex shapes, dimension and orientations of objects.
   Hannan (2006) hypothesized that the temporal visual cortex uses prior
   memory and experiences to make sense of shapes, colours and forms. She
   proposed that the long-term effect of blindness in the visual cortex is
   the lack of recognition of spatial cues.

   At three years of age, May's vision had still not reached the acuity of
   an adult person, so his brain was still not completely exposed to all
   possible clarity of images and light of the environment. This made it
   difficult for Michael to lead a normal daily life. Cohen et al. (1997)
   suggested that early blindness causes a poor development of the visual
   cortex with the result of a decrease in somatosensory development. This
   study proposed that Michael's long-term blindness affects his ability
   to distinguish in between faces of males and females, and to recognize
   pictures and images. In spite of the surgery on his right eye, his
   newly regained vision, after blindness of forty years, is not fully
   recovered. Thinus-Blanc and Gaunet (1997) suggest that early blinded
   people show limited ability in spatial representation. Michael still
   struggles to identify pictures or illustrations. The impairment of his
   visual cortex, due to the loss of his vision at a very early age,
   resulted in visual cortex cells that are not used to the stimuli in his
   surroundings. Cohen et al. (1997) proposed that in their early age,
   blinded subjects developed strong motivations to tactile discrimination
   tasks. May's early blindness benefited him so far; he developed very
   precise senses of hearing and touch.

   In 2006, journalist Robert Kurson wrote a book on May, Crashing
   Through, expanded from an article he did for Esquire,^[13] which was
   adapted into a motion picture.^[14] Crashing Through was released on
   May 15, 2007.

Shirl Jennings[edit]

   Main article: Shirl Jennings

   Shirl Jennings (1940-2003) was blinded by illness as a young boy.
   Experimental surgery in 1991 partially restored his vision, but like
   Bradford and May, Jennings found the transition to sightedness
   difficult. In 1992, a pneumonia infection resulted in anoxia, and
   ultimately cost Jennings his vision again.

Shander Herian[edit]

   In 2011, The Guardian published a story about Shander Herian, who was
   blinded by illness at the age of 14 and fully recovered after an
   experimental surgery in middle age.^[15]

Modern history[edit]

   More recently, another condition called aniridia has been treated with
   reconstructive surgery using the membrane from the amniotic sac that
   surrounds a fetus combined with stem cell transplantation into the
   eye.^[16] In 2003, three people were successfully implanted with a
   permanent "retinal prosthesis" by researchers at the University of
   Southern California. Each patient wore spectacles with miniature video
   cameras that transmitted signals to a 4-mm-by-5-mm retinal implant via
   a wireless receiver embedded behind the ear.^[17]

See also[edit]

     * Blindsight - when a blind person can perceive visual stimuli
     * Hand-eye coordination
     * Stereopsis recovery - recovery of stereo vision


    1. ^ ^a ^b ^c ^d ^e Leffler, CT; Schwartz, SG (February 2021). "The
       First Cataract Surgeons in the British Isles". American Journal of
       Ophthalmology. 230: 75-122. doi:10.1016/j.ajo.2021.03.009.
       PMC 8446104. PMID 33744237.
    2. ^ "The New Yorker: From the Archives: Content". The New Yorker.
       Archived from the original on 2006-08-31. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
       "The seventeenth-century philosopher William Molyneux, whose wife
       was blind, posed the following question to his friend John Locke:
       "Suppose a man born blind, and now adult, and taught by his touch
       to distinguish between a cube and a sphere [be] made to see: [could
       he now] by his sight, before he touched them . . . distinguish and
       tell which was the globe and which the cube?""
    3. ^ "Recovery from Early Blindness". Retrieved 2010-05-04.
    4. ^ "recovery from blindness: Information from Answers.com".
       Answers.com. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
    5. ^ "The New Yorker: From the Archives: Content". The New Yorker.
       Archived from the original on 2006-08-31. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
    6. ^ An Account of Some Observations Made by a Young Gentleman, Who
       Was Born Blind, or Lost His Sight so Early, That He Had no
       Remembrance of Ever Having Seen, and Was Couch'd between 13 and 14
       Years of Age. By Will. Cheselden. Philosophical Transactions, Vol.
       35. (1727-1728), pp. 447-450.
    7. ^ von Senden, Marius (1960). Space and sight: the perception of
       space and shape in the congenitally blind before and after
       operation. Methuen & Co.
    8. ^ ^a ^b
    9. ^ Bellows, Alan (2009). Alien Hand Syndrome: And Other
       Too-Weird-Not-To-Be-True Stories. Workman Publishing. pp. 209-212.
       ISBN 9780761152255.
   10. ^ Pendergrast, Mark (2004). Mirror, Mirror: A History Of The Human
       Love Affair With Reflection. Basic Books. p. 336.
       ISBN 9780465054718.
   11. ^ "Case Study: SB - The Man Who Was Disappointed with What He Saw".
       Health Check. 2010-08-25. BBC World Service.
   12. ^ http://www.goodmaneyecenter.com/gev-goodman.html Daniel Goodman
   13. ^ Esquire article "Into the Light" by Robert Kurson (published June
       1, 2005)
   14. ^ Hollywood Reporter news on film about May
   15. ^ Shander Herian, Jenny Hulme "Experience: I first saw my wife 10
       years after we married", guardian.co.uk, 19 February 2011
   16. ^ Anon. "Wade cook's eye reconstruction by Dr. Ming Wang". ABC
       news. ABC. Archived from the original on 2021-12-18. Retrieved 27
       August 2010.
   17. ^ https://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,59634-0.html Wired
       -Bionic Eyes Benefit the Blind



   Cohen L. G.; et al. (1997). "Functional relevance of cross-modal
   plasticity in blind humans". Nature. 389 (6647): 180-183.
   Bibcode:1997Natur.389..180C. doi:10.1038/38278. PMID 9296495.
   S2CID 4422418.

     Hannan, C. K. (2006). Review of Research: Neuroscience and the Impact
   of Brain Plasticity on Braille Reading. Journal of Visual Impairment &
   Blindness, 7, 397-412.

     ^ Hothersall, David. History of Psychology. McGraw Hill, 2004.

     Siu T. L.; Morley J. W. (2008). "Suppression of visual cortical
   evoked responses following deprivation of pattern vision in adult
   mice". European Journal of Neuroscience. 28 (3): 484-490.
   doi:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2008.06342.x. PMID 18702720. S2CID 205513480.

     Thinus-Blanc C.; Gaunet F. (1997). "Representation of Space in Blind
   Persons: Vision as a Spatial Sense?". Psychological Bulletin. 121 (1):
   20-39. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.121.1.20. PMID 9064698.

     Tolii, Shuko; Toshiko, Mochizuki (1995). "Post-surgery perception of
   subjective contour figures in the cases of the congenitally blind".
   Japanese Psychological Research. 37 (5): 146-157.
   doi:10.4992/psycholres1954.37.146. Retrieved 11 October 2015.

External links[edit]

     * "Giving Sight to the Blind" lecture by Brian Wandell at Stanford

   Ostrovsky, Yuri; Aaron Andalman; Pawan Sinha (2006). "Vision Following
   Extended Congenital Blindness" (PDF). Psychological Science. 17 (12):
   1009-14. CiteSeerX
   doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01827.x. PMID 17201779. S2CID 14869138.
   Retrieved 27 August 2010.

     Pawan Sinha on how the brain learns to see, TedTalks

   Retrieved from

     * Blindness

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