It is a widely-known fact that newborn babies have problems with vision – they have only 20/800 strength of the vision. Same goes to newborn animals, like kittens who are blind for the first week of their life.
Recently, it was discovered that it regards not only to the visual system, but some other senses as well, for example, hearing. The timing is different (as newborns can hear well, so this topic was discovered on children in the womb, during the prenatal period. This time, the sound quality is degraded to low-frequency sounds only.
“Instead of thinking of the poor quality of the input as a limitation that biology is imposing on us, this work takes the standpoint that perhaps nature is being clever and giving us the right kind of impetus to develop the mechanisms that later prove to be very beneficial when we are asked to deal with challenging recognition tasks,” says Pawan Sinha, a professor of vision and computational neuroscience in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, who led the research team.
The thing is that our brain is being somehow “trained” when we are still in the womb, giving it challenges like blurred vision or not-really-clear sounds. In order to deep dive into this topic, scientists created a convolutional network model for face recognition research , and computational model of human sound recognition.
It was found out, that models, which had blurred faces followed by clearly seen faces; or low-frequency sounds followed by full-frequency sounds as a train data; performed better. They exhibited the most generalized performance profile on the emotion recognition task. It led to lots of conlcusions and further research tasks, one of which are:
- patients with hearing impairment might have missed out on some of the low-quality sensory input in the womb
- It is beneficial to expose newborns to low-frequency sounds after birth, to mimic conditions they might have missed out
- Which kind of degraded input might be beneficial for humans as well?
- Does it go beyond 2 sensory modalities?
- Can we prevent visual impairment/hearing impairment using such practices as prophylactic measures?
Research done by NIH