Not very often, we get to know people with a unique spark for life that does not resemble anything else in this world.
Such individuals can be best described as encompassing a combination of the highest states of emotional, cognitive, and physical intelligence that all come together in the same person; the result is exceptional.
It has been demonstrated that an individual with a disability often practices compassion and companionship toward others due to the impact of his/her disability.
Moreover, the way the individual perceives the disability will have a significant effect on his/her overall quality of life.
In fact, some people are able to “see” and take the full opportunity of their disability to assist in others’ rehabilitation. At the same time they are also developing their motor learning strategies and other sophisticated cognitive functions.
Motor Learning in Visually Impairment
In cases of sensory dysfunction or loss, mechanisms of learning a motor skill are affected. For the visually impaired individual, the lack of vision as a primary factor for perceptual information and acting in the environment is modified.
Visually impaired individuals use alternative strategies to organize spatial information and acquire knowledge of space. For example, in the absence of visual information, spatial learning skills rely on somatosensory information and tactile abilities.
From the ecological theory perspective, James Gibson, distinguished psychologist in the field of visual perception, has described perception and action as continuing processes of active detection of stimulus information. In this sense, visually impaired individuals can detect external stimuli using other senses to afford direct interaction with the environment.
Those who can master these skills and strategies of motor learning can achieve a high cognitive function that can provide direct compensation for the lack of visual input.
The Story of Ilan Cohen Magori
Talking about mastering motor and cognitive skills, this is the case with Mr. Ilan Cohen Magori. Ilan teaches other visually impaired individuals to adopt and use assistive technology; he is involved in numerous education projects that help individuals to cope with blindness; he is a computer instructor, an advanced assistive technology teacher, and an extremely talented lecturer.
Ilan is an advocate competence athlete; he runs, bikes, plays goalball, dances, hikes in the mountains, does yoga, enjoys pilates, and more. All these activities he perceives, performs, and experiences without any visual information processes occurring.
No wonder that Ilan is able to master many motor and cognitive skills despite his blind conditions and, thus, to experience life to the highest satisfaction.
Analyzing Ilan’s behavior and testing of his brain function reveal the motor learning mechanisms and strategies that assist him in successful performance.
Ilan’s brain works in a unique way of organizing specific and detailed pieces of verbal and tactile information that are processed into sensory and motor actions. He uses a high level of mental imagery strategies to make sense of the world around him.
Every action, before being executed, is analyzed and rehearsed in his mind; practice makes everything perfect. Just like that, Ilan is able to internally imagine every motor task and to perform it without involving any voluntary skeletal muscle activity.
Mental imagery represents the cognitive ability that forms an internal visual picture within one’s mind. Ganis et al. (2004) used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to examine which brain regions are involved during visual mental imagery tasks.
The results showed a general overlap of neural structures in brain areas engaged in visual perception and visual mental imagery, suggesting that visual and mental imagery share similar mechanisms of visual perception processing.
Developing such mental mapping abilities and orientation skills is associated with increasing quality of life in visually impaired individuals as it provides efficient independent mobility.
Although blind individuals can interact with the environment with other sensor systems for a given task, a blind person would require more cognitive effort and time to complete this interaction compared to a visually intact individual.
Here is the real advantage of Ilan’s abilities to manipulate the world around him in a successful manner despite the blindness:
1) A high level of cognitive processes is applied to every action.
2) A personality trait analysis reveals a high degree of self-learning mechanisms.
3) On top of it all, Ilan exhibits advanced motor learning strategies and function due to his kind, companionable and compassionate behavior toward life.