Where Blindness is Epidemic

Defying scientific dogma, blind kids in India are learning to see

Illustration for TIME by Jon Krause

Neuroscientists have long been convinced that the first few years of life are a crucial period for brain development--a time when connections between neurons are being forged at a prodigious rate as a baby learns to make sense of the external world. Interfere with that process, and you can cause permanent, irrevocable damage. If a child is born blind, for example, it's pretty much over by age 6. You can fix the eyes, and they might be able to perceive light and dark. Without the right visual circuitry in place, though, there's no way to form images--the essence of true sight.

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