How come holding hands makes kissing feel better? Due to its position inside the mouth, the tongue is hard to study.

It gives us access to the wonderful world of taste, but it also has more sensitivity to touch than the finger. We can't speak, sing, breathe, or swallow beverages without it.

We don't use it as much.

My new study looks at how to make the most of this strange organ, which could be used to help people with visual impairments. Please bear with me, even though this may sound crazy.

Sensory substitution is a branch of science that combines psychology, neuroscience, computer science, and engineering to create sensory substitution devices.

Sensory information can be converted from one sense to another. If the device is designed for a person with a visual impairment, it typically means converting visual information into sound or touch.

Drawing pictures on the tongue

One such technology is BrainPort. The video feed from the camera is converted into electrical stimulation on the tongue.

The tongue display is a small device that looks like a lollipop.

The technology can be used to help people who have had a stroke. The FDA approved its use as an aid for the visually impaired.

Imagine holding your hand up to a camera and seeing a small hand on the tip of your tongue. It feels like someone is drawing something on your tongue.

Despite being ten times cheaper than a retinal implant, the BrainPort hasn't seen a lot of real world use. I use the BrainPort to see if differences in perception are the cause of how human attention works on the tongue.

The Posner cueing paradigm was developed in the 1980s by American psychologist Mike Posner and is used in psychology research.

I do not mean "attention span" when I say attention. The processes that bring things from the environment into our consciousness are referred to as attention. According to Posner, our attention can be influenced by visual stimuli.

When we see something moving out of the corner of our eye, we focus on that area. We probably evolved this way to deal with snakes in corners and in the edges of our field.

The process happens between senses. If you've ever sat in a pub garden and heard a wasp buzzing around in the air, your attention is quickly drawn to that side of your body.

Things that appear in one sense can affect other senses.

Paying attention to the tongue

We wanted to see if the brain could allocate attention in the same way as the hands or other modes of attention.

We know a lot about sight and touch, but we don't know if this knowledge will translate to the tongue.

BrainPort is designed to help people see through their tongues. Is seeing with the tongue the same as seeing with the eyes?

Almost everything in life is complicated.

Despite the amazing sensitivity of the tongue, attentional processes are a bit limited compared with the other senses. It is easy to over-stimulate the tongue, which can make it hard to feel what is happening.

Sound can affect attentional processes on the tongue. BrainPort users can identify information on the left side of their tongue if they hear a sound to the left. The BrainPort could be used to guide attention and reduce sensory overload.

Managing the complexity of visual information that gets substituted and using another sense to help share some of the sensory load are some of the ways in which the BrainPort can be used.

Using the BrainPort in isolation could be too stimulating to provide reliable information and could potentially be improved by using other technology along with it, such as the vOICe.

A device to help rock climbers with visual impairments navigate is being developed.

Machine learning is being used to identify climbing holds and reduce the amount of irrelevant information.

We're exploring the idea of using sound to cue where the next hold might be and then using feedback on the tongue to locate the hold.

With a few changes, this technology could one day become a more reliable instrument to help the blind. Paraplegic people can't use their hands to navigate or communicate.

Mike Richardson is a research associate in psychology.

You can read the original article by The Conversation.