Lip reading might not be listed on your CV as a special skill, but research shows that you probably have used it in the past-when you were a baby. Apparently, babies can distinguish between different languages by just reading your lips. Scientists showed babies videos of talking adults, with the sound turned off (Science 2007;316:1159). Babies predictably got bored of the clips soon, but their interest renewed when the speakers switched from English to French. This ability lasted only until the age of 8 months-although in bilingual households, the ability did continue longer. The cerebral mechanisms for learning language seem, therefore, to be associated with visual cues.
Our eyes might not be necessary for us to “see.” What was once thought to be an entirely visual part of the brain-the lateral occipital tactile visual area (LOtv), which is associated with shape recognition-is now known to respond to touch and sound.