Description of Book Review: Blindness and Brain Plasticity in Navigation and Object Perception. John J. Rieser, Daniel H. Ashmead, Ford F. Ebner, and Anne L. Corn, Editors. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2008, hardcover, 433 pp., $111.
The book, Blindness and Brain Plasticity in Navigation and Object Perception, edited by John J. Rieser, Daniel H. Ashmead, Ford F. Ebner, and Anne L. Corn, emerged as the outcome of a workshop organized by Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, with funding from the National Eye Institute, National Instititues of Health, and other sources, that explored the connections among the topics of blindness, animal models of brain plasticity (the degree to which the organization of the brain is amenable to change as a result of experience), human brain imaging, cognitive science, and rehabilitation engineering. This workshop brought together scientists from such diverse fields as physiology, psychology, vision science, engineering, education, and rehabilitation, with backgrounds in basic, cognitive, developmental, and applied science. The presenters of that workshop each contributed chapters to this book. According to the editors, the aim of the workshop and this subsequent publication is to explore "how perception, knowledge, and action come to be coupled together in the absence of vision." The chapters discuss the implications of the findings of basic brain sciences that demonstrate brain plasticity with findings from the cognitive and developmental sciences showing cognitive limitations, individual differences, and developmental differences among people who are blind. The publication attempts to identify where further research is needed and to inspire others to focus on the research problems raised. In my opinion, the book meets this goal admirably. It does not seek to provide answers so much as to raise questions, and it raises many, often elegantly.