Navigation with a sensory substitution device in congenitally blind individuals

Daniel Robert Chebat, Fabien C. Schneider, Ron Kupers, Maurice Ptito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Vision allows for obstacle detection and avoidance. The compensatory mechanisms involved in maintaining these functions in blind people using their remaining intact senses are poorly understood. We investigated the ability of congenitally blind participants to detect and avoid obstacles using the tongue display unit, a sensory substitution device that uses the tongue as a portal to the brain. We found that congenitally blind were better than sighted control participants in detecting and avoiding obstacles using the tongue display unit. Obstacles size and avoidance strategy had a significant effect on performance: large obstacles were better detected than small ones and step-around obstacles were better avoided than step-over ones. These data extend our earlier findings that when using a sensory substitution device, blind participants outperform sighted controls not only in a virtual navigation task but also during effective navigation within a human-sized obstacle course.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-347
Number of pages6
Issue number7
StatePublished - 11 May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Congenital blindness
  • navigation
  • obstacle detection
  • sensory substitution


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