"The Sight of Touch" 24-year-old
Michelle Geronimo was blindfolded and studied Braille for
five days so scientists could see whether this radical change
in incoming information would promote particular adaptations
in her brain. Recently, we asked her some questions about
her 100 hours without sight.
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Why did you volunteer for this study?
study gave me the chance to experience what it is like to
function in a world without sight. I entered the study to
gain a better understanding of the challenges blind individuals
face and a better appreciation for my vision. I decided to
volunteer without much hesitation at all. What other time
would I have an opportunity like this, to be totally blindfolded
for a week and in a safe, controlled environment?
also wanted the opportunity to receive Braille and cane instruction.
I have always been fascinated by Braille- a whole other method
of communication- so I jumped at the chance to take one-on-one
lessons. I was also interested in the cane instruction and
other techniques for getting around.
I was very glad to receive the $1,170 stipend, I honestly
would have volunteered for the study without one. The overall
experience and resulting reflections have been compelling
enough to make me refer all of my friends to participate as
Describe your first day.
checked in Sunday night, which was a good idea, because then
I knew what the room looked like. I was then blindfolded Monday
morning. Things were a little hectic because Scientific
American Frontiers was there to film with Alan Alda. It
was kind of exciting. We'd be sitting there blindfolded together,
then learning caning together, and then learning from the
Braille instructor. It's kind of a different experience saying,
"Yeah I was blindfolded in a study" and, "Oh yeah, I was blind
folded with Alan Alda, to boot!".
I was back in my room alone, the radio and noises from the
hallway seemed magnified. They kind of spooked me that first
day. I think being blindfolded and in a strange environment
for a week made me feel more vulnerable. I didn't want the
radio up very loud at all, because I couldn't hear if someone
was walking in the door. I wouldn't be able to distinguish
other sounds that were happening around me. I don't know if
my hearing was more heightened or if I was just more aware
because that's all I had.
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