Interdisciplinary Nature of Research on Sensory Replacement Sensory Substitution

This paper is concerned with compensating for the loss of vision and hearing by way of sensory replacement and sensory substitution, with a primary focus on the latter. Figure C.7 shows the stages of processing from stimulus to perception for vision, hearing, and touch (which often plays a role in substitution) and indicates the associated basic sciences involved in understanding these stages of processing. (The sense of touch, or haptic sense, actually comprises two submodalities: kinesthesis and the cutaneous sense [Loomis and Lederman 1986]; here we focus on mechanical stimulation). What is clear is the extremely interdisciplinary nature of research to understand the human senses. Not surprisingly, the various attempts to use high technology to remedy visual and auditory impairments over the years have reflected the current scientific understanding of these senses at the time. Thus, there has been a general progression of technological solutions starting at the distal stages (front ends) of the two modalities, which were initially better understood, to solutions demanding an understanding of the brain and its functional characteristics, as provided by neuroscience and cognitive science.

Cognitive processing

Scientific discipline(s)

Cognitive Science/ Neuroscience


Multiple brain areas


Multiple brain areas


Multiple brain areas

Sensory Psychophysics/ Somatosensory

Visual pathway Auditory pathway processing Neuroscience pathway

Transduction Biophysics/Biology

Conduction Physics/Biology


Cochlea Mechanoreception

Optics of eye Outer/middle ears


Physics Light Sound

Figure C.7. Sensory modalities and related disciplines.



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