Humans can learn mindblowing ‘SIXTH sense’ – and it only ‘takes 10 weeks to master’

PEOPLE with vision loss can learn to navigate their surroundings using a technique more commonly associated with bats and dolphins.

In a recent experiment, UK researchers were able to teach blind participants to echolocate by clicking their tongues in just ten weeks.


Blind people can use echolocation to navigate their surroundingsCredit: Getty

The new skill improved mobility and independence, scientists at the University of Durham said.

They said that visually impaired people should be prescribed echolocation lessons to help them get around.

Known as nature’s sonar system, echolocation occurs when an animal emits a sound that bounces off objects in the environment.

The returning echoes provide information about the surrounding space, allowing the animal to locate distant or invisible objects.

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Common in bats, whales and dolphins, previous research has shown that some blind people can also use echolocation to judge spaces.

In a study published last year, a team of scientists led by Dr Lore Thaler of Durham University looked into how people learn this skill.

Over the course of a 10-week training programme, they investigated how blindness and age affect learning of click-based echolocation.

The team also looked into how learning this skill impacts the daily life of people who are blind.

The study involved blind and sighted participants between 21 and 79 years of age.

They took part in 20 two-to-three-hour training sessions over the study period.

Over the course of the experiment, the researchers were able to teach participants how to use “click echolocation”.

This involved making a clicking sound with the tongue in order to navigate obstacles in their surroundings.

Participants were able to recognise the size and orientation of objects using the rebounding calls of their clicks.

They were taught using virtual mazes to identify the relative sizes of objects. They were also trained to navigate outside of the lab.

Despite how useful this skill can be, very few blind people are trained how to use click echolocation.

Experts have been trying to spread the word for years, and the study suggests that a simple training regime is all that’s required.

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“I cannot think of any other work with blind participants that has had such enthusiastic feedback,” Thaler said.

The research was published in June 2021 in the journal Plos One.

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