At Pawan Sinha's MIT lab, he and his team spend their days trying to understand how the brain learns to recognize and use the patterns and scenes we see around us. To do this, they often use computers to model the processes of the human brain, but they also study human subjects, some of whom are seeing the world for the very first time and can tell them about the experience as it happens. They find these unusual subjects through the humanitarian branch of their research, Project Prakash.
Project Prakash sets up eye-care camps in some of the most habitually underserved regions of India, and gives free eye-health screenings to, since 2003, more than 700 functionally blind children. The children are then treated without charge, even if they do not fit the profile that would make them eligible for Sinha's research.
Sinha's eventual goal is to help 500 children each year; plans are under way for a center for visual rehabilitation in new Delhi. The special relationship that Sinha has created between research and humanitarianism promises to deliver on both fronts.