According to Scientific American, people who are blind can learn to use their sense of hearing more efficiently. Similarly, deaf people, may learn to utilize their vision more effectively. While the 5 senses that we are taught in school are the most obvious to perceive, The New York Times says that humans have more than 5 senses. Naturally, the brain is the organ that governs over every known sense. I read on The Conversation that partial ectogenesis has already been achieved. What I'm wondering is this:

Assuming that absolute ectogenesis will be feasible in the future, imagine a baby being born in a sensory deprivation chamber, provided it is receiving the nourishment, water, oxygen, and space it requires to survive. Since it is being deprived of many of its senses, would its intellectual abilities shoot through the roof as it develops? Would the outcome be the drastic opposite: a child whose brain simply does not function, due to the impossibility of receiving a sufficient amount of sensory inputs? Are sensory inputs needed to survive?

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  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisRogers Since the baby is in a sensory deprivation chamber, its senses would not provide any information to the brain. Because of this, I was wondering if their intelligence would rise more quickly than those of most developing infants. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2021 at 0:40
  • $\begingroup$ After rethinking I believe the whole premise of the question makes it opinion-based as absolute ectogenesis is not feasible yet and the idea cannot be experimented. Even if the scenario was possible, I wonder if it would be considered ethical. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2021 at 7:48
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe one clue could be whether children that develop sensory defects long before birth (blindness, etc) have increased intellectual abilities. What you describe are other senses that gain functionality if one sense is missing, not necessarily a gain in intelligence. Is the question about this: If there is no sense left to compensate what is missing, will the resources bee allocated to other functionality? (My guess is that if that is the case, we could already observe some increase in intelligence - of whatever kind - if one or more senses are missing.) $\endgroup$
    – dasWesen
    Nov 1, 2023 at 9:43

1 Answer 1


I'm not an expert, but I came across this when I asked Google a similar question. It's a great thought experiment.

I think the answer depends heavily on how long it is in there. If it's simply growing from a zygote to a viable fetus and then being removed, I think the results could be positive. Not that its intellect would be affected at all, because intellect, except perhaps the genetic component, doesn't develop in the womb. It mostly develops as a result of learning from the environment. 1 The brain should develop pretty much like any other human fetal brain. However, it would experience far less trauma during the birthing process and it wouldn't have learned its mother's voice, so it may not be looking for her at birth, which means it wouldn't be traumatized if it didn't immediately find her. The absence of trauma is a beneficial thing.

If it was left in there longer, past viability, it would likely be to its detriment. A few days probably wouldn't make much difference, but longer than that would likely cause cognitive impairment. Humans are associative learners; we learn through our senses. 2 Without sensory input we would not learn anything. If left in there for a longer period of time, (how long is too long, I don't know) the child would emerge as profoundly cognitively disabled, since the development of cognition depends upon sensory input and experience, as well as thought.3

I hope this lends some insight.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for providing references in your answer. However, two of your links are not really to specific references, they are to search results. Search results change all the time, and it's unlikely that anyone visiting those links in the future will see what you saw today. It would be helpful if you replaced them with references to specific sources in those search results, and also if you provide identifying information besides the link, such as an author, title, and date, since links can change over time and are likely to become broken, and no one will be able to fix your link without it. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 29, 2023 at 15:12

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