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Sensory Substitution and Augmentation$
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Fiona Macpherson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266441

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266441.001.0001

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Sensory Substitution: From Sensations to Phenomenology

Sensory Substitution: From Sensations to Phenomenology

(p.43) 2 Sensory Substitution: From Sensations to Phenomenology
Sensory Substitution and Augmentation

Laurent Renier

, Fiona Macpherson
British Academy

Sensory substitution refers to the use of one sensory modality (e.g. hearing) to supply environmental information normally gathered by another sense (e.g. vision) while still preserving some of the key functions of the original sense. For example, the use of auditory signals might give information about visual scenes. The development of sensory substitution devices has profoundly changed the classical definition of sensory modalities and contributed to the emergence of a new form of perception. In the last decade, our knowledge about cognitive and brain mechanisms involved in sensory substitution has grown considerably, bringing new insights into human perception. The phenomenological experience of perceiving via a sensory substitution device can now be discussed in the light of current scientific knowledge. Thanks to technological advances and scientific achievements, sensory substitution has become a real alternative for restoring some functions of a defective sensory organ (e.g. sight in the case of blindness or hearing in the case of deafness). This essay addresses some of the major questions raised by sensory substitution, including discussions regarding the nature of perception arising from the use of such devices, demonstrates how the study of sensory substitution enhances our understanding of human perception and brain plasticity and provides a short overview of rehabilitation potentialities.

Keywords:   sensory substitution, brain plasticity, perception

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