Humans Can Learn to 'Echolocate' in Just 10 Weeks

Most humans may learn to echolocate by making clicking noises with their tongue and analyzing the echoes that return, which are reflected from the surrounding environment, with enough practice.

Researchers were able to teach participants how to overcome obstacles and detect the size and orientation of things in as little as 10 weeks by using the rebounding cries of their clicks.

The trial included 12 volunteers who had been classified as legally blind as children and 14 sighted adults, with the results published in 2021.

Although we normally identify echolocation with creatures like bats and whales, some blind individuals utilize the echoes of their own noises to detect obstacles and their shapes. Some generate the requisite noise by tapping their canes or snapping their fingers, while others make a clicking sound with their tongues.

Despite how beneficial this talent can be, it is now taught to very few blind individuals. Expert echolocators have been attempting to get the word out for years, and this study reveals that all that's required is a basic training plan."I cannot think of any other work with blind participants that has had such enthusiastic feedback," noted psychologist Lore Thaler of Durham University in the United Kingdom in June of last year, when the results were released. 

Researchers discovered that blind and sighted volunteers, both elderly and young, all improved significantly at click-based echolocation over the course of 20 training sessions that lasted roughly 2 to 3 hours.

Participants were trained for weeks to traverse virtual mazes – passageways structured in T-intersections, U bends, and zig-zags – and use mouth clicks to determine the size and position of items.

The participants' improved navigation abilities were put to the stand in the last two sessions in a virtual maze they'd never encountered before. Collisions were lower even when blindfolded in this unfamiliar area than they had been at the outset of the training.

The echoes of their own clicks were clearly assisting participants in navigating the course more easily than previously.

The scientists discovered that these newly taught echolocators fared almost as well in the maze as seven expert echolocators who had been practicing this talent for years.

Participants in the research did similarly well in additional tasks to assess the shape and orientation of various surfaces.

Previous research has showed that sighted people can acquire click-based echolocation through a series of training sessions, but this is the first study to see if the results apply to blind people of all ages.
The visual regions of the brain are what allow echolocators to'see' the world around them, and it's unclear if people who don't have vision as a child can use the same neural networks to the same extent.

Furthermore, many people lose their eyesight and hearing as they age, and the brain becomes less pliable as a person gets older.

This can make acquiring new abilities more difficult as you get older, but research shows that this isn't a limiting issue when it comes to echolocation. Blind people as old as 79 were able to learn the skill with the correct instruction in the research.

When the authors looked at their findings (which were admittedly limited), they discovered that greater age was not connected to more crashes in the maze challenge.

"Importantly, when we quantified the degree to which participants improved from session 1 to session 20 in their abilities across each of the tasks, there was no evidence for an association between age and performance in the practical tasks," the scientists said.

Although younger individuals were able to complete the mazes faster, the authors noted that "training led to remarkable behavioral changes for all participants", regardless of age.

Blind individuals reported increased mobility using echolocation three months after the training sessions finished. In a follow-up poll, ten of the twelve participants stated the skill improved their independence and well-being.

"We are very excited about this," Thaler said," and feel that it would make sense to provide information and training in click-based echolocation to people who may still have good functional vision, but who are expected to lose vision later in life because of progressive degenerative eye conditions."  
Humans Can Learn to 'Echolocate' in Just 10 Weeks Humans Can Learn to 'Echolocate' in Just 10 Weeks Reviewed by Lilit on June 21, 2022 Rating: 5
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