When he was a premed student at the University of Rochester, C. Shawn Green used to stay up late on a lot of nights to play Counter-Strike. It's an action-packed video game that pits a team of counterterrorists against a team of terrorists. One morning in September 2000, Green sat down in front of his computer, not to return to the game, but to work on an experiment being conducted by the university's Brain and Vision Lab.

Something was wrong. The experiment was supposed to test whether deaf people had quicker visual reflexes than people with hearing. Participants had to identify an image flashing quickly on a computer screen that was filled with visual clutter. If the average Joe could pick out the target 50 percent ...

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