Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

The newly sighted fail to match seen with felt

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 26 August 2011

This article has been updated


Would a blind subject, on regaining sight, be able to immediately visually recognize an object previously known only by touch? We addressed this question, first formulated by Molyneux three centuries ago, by working with treatable, congenitally blind individuals. We tested their ability to visually match an object to a haptically sensed sample after sight restoration. We found a lack of immediate transfer, but such cross-modal mappings developed rapidly.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Stimuli and testing procedure.
Figure 2: Intra- and inter-modal matching results.

Change history

  • 04 May 2011

    In the version of this article initially published, author Beatrice de Gelder’s name was misspelled. The error has been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions of the article.


  1. Locke, J. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. London (1690).

  2. Morgan, M. Molyneux's Question (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1977).

  3. Lewkowicz, C.J. & Lickliter, R. The Development of Intersensory Perception (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994).

  4. Meltzoff, A.N. & Borton, W. Nature 282, 403–404 (1979).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Maurer, D., Stager, C.L. & Mondloch, C.J. Child Dev. 70, 1047–1057 (1999).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Von Senden, M. Space and Sight: the Perception of Space and Shape in the Congenitally Blind Before and After Operation (Metheun, London, 1960).

  7. Degenaar, M.J.L. & Lokhorst, G.J.C. in The Continuum Companion to Locke (eds. Savonius-Wroth, S.-J., Walmsley, J. & Schuurman, P.) 179–183 (Continuum, 2010).

  8. Cheselden, W. Philosophical Transactions 402, 447–450 (1728).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Dandona, R. & Dandona, L. Br. J. Ophthalmol. 87, 263–265 (2003).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Mandavilli, A. Nature 441, 271–272 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Ostrovsky, Y., Meyers, E., Ganesh, S., Mathur, U. & Sinha, P. Psychol. Sci. 20, 1484–1491 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Falchier, A., Clavagnier, S., Barone, P. & Kennedy, H. J. Neurosci. 22, 5749–5759 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Pascual-Leone, A., Amedi, A., Fregni, F. & Merabet, L. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 28, 377–401 (2005).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Held, R. Optom. Vis. Sci. 86, 595–598 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Ernst, M.O. & Banks, M.S. Nature 415, 429–433 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors wish to thank all members of the Project Prakash team and especially the children who participated in this study. Funding for this work was provided by the James McDonnell Foundation's Scholar Award to P.S. and the National Eye Institute (grant R21-EY015521 to P.S.).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



R.H., B.d.G., P.S. and Y.O. designed the study. S.G. and U.M. performed the surgical procedures and conducted the ophthalmic assessments. R.H., Y.O., T.G., B.d.G. and P.S. conducted the match-to-sample experiments and wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Richard Held or Pawan Sinha.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Text and Figures

Supplementary Methods (PDF 109 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Held, R., Ostrovsky, Y., de Gelder, B. et al. The newly sighted fail to match seen with felt. Nat Neurosci 14, 551–553 (2011).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing