The Connections of Blindness and the Brain
The Connections of Blindness and the Brain
The brain and the mind are one and cannot be separated, while the brain is a physical thing the mind on the other hand is considered to be mental. The brain is constructed of nerve cells, blood vessels, and etc., whereas the mind is shapeless. The brain is an important organ in the human body since it controls all the functions and activities. The mind on the other hand is the center of the nervous system; it coordinates the movements and thoughts. The Mind lets an individual understand things but the brain is in charge of sending the signals to the mind. Oliver Sacks in “The Mind’s Eye” uses the case studies of John Hull, Zoltan Torey, and Lusseyran to show that the mind and brain both run each other even without the ability of vision by learning to compensate and adapt after neurological disorders took their ability to see away from them.
In the case study of John Hull, Sacks talks about how this author goes completely blind by age forty eight yet is still able to train his mind and brain to both run each other even without their vision by learning to compensate. Sacks believes that Hull is a great example of how an individual deprived of one form of perception could totally reshape himself to a new identity. In Hull’s case his brain signals were fine but it wasn’t registering in his mind so in the end he lost complete remembrance of sight even though he retained sight for his first thirty eight years. This intensity of being from this world means the “blindness now becomes for him ‘a dark, paradoxical gift’ ” and Sacks even calls it a “a new focus, a new freedom” (304). Here both Hull’s mind and brain are running each other and hence are able to compensate for his lack of vision. The paradoxical gift refers to Hull gaining the ability to shift his attention to his other senses. His new freedom is the direct result of him losing sight. He is able to use his mind to write deeper and overall becomes intellectually and spiritually bolder though the use of his brain which stores the knowledge. Just because he couldn’t see anything did not mean he started losing intelligence, as would be assumed. The mind was able to signal and eventually train the brain so that Hull’s grew intellectually through his other senses. Sacks says, that it’s as if Hull had a new identity, but in
fact it was just the outcome of the brain and mind working together. Furthermore, Hull is able to further illustrate the connection between the brain and the mind by showing a great sense of intimacy with nature. Hull says “Rain has a way of bringing out the contours of everything; it throws a coloured blanket over previously invisible things; instead of an intermittent and thus fragmented world, the steadily falling rain creates continuity of acoustic experience . . . presents the fullness of an entire situation all at once . . . gives a sense of perspective and of the actual relationships of one part of the world to another” (304). Here Hull uses three-dimensional perception and imagination to the limit to make his point. Hull is able to use his mind to shift his attention to his other senses so that when it rains he can actually distinguish where each and every drop lands just by the sound of impact to the point that a unique experience is created which he has never before experienced. So even though Hull has gradual loss in seeing and soon has complete extinction of visual imagery which he calls ‘deep blindness’ he is still able to train his mind and brain side by side to use his other senses to push blindness to the side. Sacks further talks about this training in Tracey’s case.
In the case study of Zoltan Tracey, Sacks talks about how he received a letter from, Australian psychologist, Torey, who went blind at the age of twenty one due to an accident at a chemical plant. Similar to Hull, Torey trained his mind and brain to both run each other even without the ability of vision by learning to compensate his senses. Torey wrote in his book that unlike Hull he had trained his mind to develop his visual imagery even though he was advised to switch from a visual to an auditory mode of adjustment. Since he was a psychologist Torey understood that if he kept imagery in practice his brain would register it. This means that Torey was able to “construct an imagined visual world that seemed almost as real and intense to him as the perceptual one he had lost—and, indeed, sometimes more real, more intense, a sort of controlled dream or hallucination” (Sacks 306). This shows just how closely the mind and brain must have worked together to create almost a dream like thought in his mind. This world that Torey was able to accurately construct in his mind is further shown in his story in which he is able to change his gutters on the roof of his house
completely by himself. Sacks says that he was able to complete such a task due to the fact that he was able to grasp visual thought into his mind and simulate the actions of the brain. This training of the mind that Torey practices was done by going against the norm of “rebuilding his representation of the world on the basis of hearing and touch and to forget about sight and visualizing altogether” (307). Torey had a huge advantage in since he was a psychologist, meaning he knew how to train his mind and brain at the same time so he could use his imagery in a thoughtful way. This power of imagery was so crucial to Torey that he visualized the brain “as a perpetual juggling act of interacting routines” (308). He understood the only way to engrain something in his brain is by practicing the same routine in many different ways so that it becomes a norm to the mind too. Sacks further explores this idea in Lusseyran’s case.
In the case study of Lusseyran, the French Resistance fighter went blind even before he was eight years old. Similar to Torey, Lusseyran stated to construct and to use an imaginary visual world where he trained his mind and brain to both run each other even without the ability of vision by learning to compensate his senses. Lusseyran says, “ ‘A blind person has a better sense of feeling, of taste, of touch,’ and speaks of these as ‘the gifts of the blind’ ” (313). When he says gifts of the blind he really means that even though he is blind he is able to maximize his other senses to the point that it makes up for his sight. Sacks writes that it was his “supernormal powers of visualization and visual manipulation—visualizing people’s position and movement, the topography of any space, visualizing strategies for defense and attack” (312). Lusseyran was able to train his mind and eventually ingrain in his brain what and how to determine a traitor even though he was completely blind. Sacks calls his visualization supernatural since he trained himself to the point that he was an icon in the French Resistance. However, Lusseyran couldn’t just perform drills like Torey and maintain visualization since he was a lot younger when he went blind. This shows just how much effort he had to put in and just how crucial powers of visualization were to Lusseyran to the point that he mastered Braille (312). So by starting young in training his mind and brain, he was able to combine all his senses and hence he was successful.
Oliver Sacks in “The Mind’s Eye” uses the case studies of three successful blind individuals named John Hull, Zoltan Torey, and Lusseyran who were able to run interchangeably run their mind and brain by learning to compensate and adjust after neurological disorders take their ability to see away from them. The brain and the mind are one and cannot be separated, but while the brain is a physical thing and the mind on the other hand is mental. John Hull illustrates this since even though two years after becoming completely blind, Hull had become so non visual as to resemble someone who had been blind from birth yet he was still able to behave as a ‘whole-body seer’ (304). This means that Hull, someone who had completely lost his imagery, was able to overcome that and shift his mind to his other senses so that his brain was able to produce a new power and intensity for him. Similarly, Zoltan Torey demonstrates this boldness by constructing an imaginary visual world by training his mind and going against what he was supposed to do. Torey was able to do this to the point that he able to multiply four-figure numbers by simply visualizing the whole operation in his mind and painting the suboperations in different colors (308). However, Torey, unlike Hull, played a more active role in building up his visual imagery, since he practiced at home with visual imagery, and was used to manipulating it in his own way; in the end both Hull and Torey were able to use their mind to make the best of their situation. Lastly, Lusseyran paralleled Hull and Torey by constructing a screen in his mind upon which whatever he thought or wanted appeared. He was able to train his mind so much that his able was able to produce ‘supernormal’ powers of visualization. In the end John Hull, Zoltan Torey, and Lusseyran were able show just how closely the mind and the brain have to work together so that blindness get in the way.
Miller, Richard, Kurt Spellmeyer, and Oliver Sacks, comp. “The Mind’s Eye”. 4th Ed. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning , 2012. Print.