Champagne for the Blind: Paul Bach-y-Rita, Neuroscience’s Forgotten Genius

Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita was a visionary neuroscientist and an early pioneer of the theory of neuroplasticity. He is the father of sensory substitution, a field which explores how one sensory modality can be transferred to another. This work culminated in the invention of the Brainport, a device that transmits information through electrodes on the tongue. Bach-y-­Rita’s company, Wicab, developed two versions of the Brainport. One uses visual information to reveal the sighted world to the blind; another uses body alignment information to help “wobblers” (individuals with vestibular conditions) navigate. The author received exclusive access to Bach-y-Rita’s unpublished memoirs. These papers–supplemented by visits to Bach-y-Rita’s home in Wisconsin and personal interviews with his family and colleagues­–help tell the story of a revolutionary technology that failed to reach the public who needed it.


Aviva Rutkin

Editor at The Conversation