Can you read without your eyes?

Skin Vision

By Tamara Tatevosian, Class of 2011

Did you know that there was a phenomenon discovered many years ago where scientists found people that had the ability to read normal text without their eyes?
There have been reports in the media about some people that have the ability to sense colors of an object by touching it with their fingertips. The most famous was Rosa Kuleshova, who could sense the colors of an object along with the ability to read normal text by passing her fingers over it. And did you know that this ability can be perfected by people with visual problems? It was written in a scientific article that nature compensates by increasing other senses in blind people, but it could apply to deaf people or mutes (1).

In 1963, in the Time it was written that neurologists assumed that her fingertips had really sensitive nerve endings very sensitive to light. Maybe that is why she was not able to “read” the print or feel the colors in the dark.
She was inspected by many doctors and some interesting studies had been done on her. Some were when a sheet of glass covered a printed page; Rosa could not read the print there. Also, it was discovered that Rosa could also feel colors and distinguish them by their “texture”: white was smooth, red was coarse-grained, and blue was wavy (2).
But this phenomenon has been ignored in scientific literature, not accepted, and not denied. After many tests done on Rosa, she went back to living her old life but after finding it difficult after all the attention she had before, she began making wild claims about more abilities but was found to be cheating which actually cast some doubt on her abilities in “skin vision”.

Some time later Rosa Kuleshova, having obstructed vision, was reported to have read a reporter’s business card with her elbow. Soon other soviet subjects were found to have likewise abilities and new programs of investigation had begun.
Unfortunately Rosa Kuleshova later died from a brain tumor.

Additionally, this phenomenon has been found in some organisms; photosensitivity not restricted in the eyes found in the pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis. The role of the nonvisual photoreception in living organisms is discussed as helping survival of various species (1).

1) Edwards Harry. Eyeless Vision-Thoughtography. Investigator 91, 2003 July.
2) TIME. Seeing Fingertips. Friday, January 25, 1963

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