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Int J Rehabil Res. 2002 Jun;25(2):143-5.

Enhanced tactile encoding and memory recognition in congenital blindness.

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Brain Research Centre & Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Several behavioural studies have shown that early-blind persons possess superior tactile skills. Since neurophysiological data show that early-blind persons recruit visual as well as somatosensory cortex to carry out tactile processing (cross-modal plasticity), blind persons' sharper tactile skills may be related to cortical re-organisation resulting from loss of vision early in their life. To examine the nature of blind individuals' tactile superiority and its implications for cross-modal plasticity, we compared the tactile performance of congenitally totally blind, low-vision and sighted children on raised-line picture identification test and re-test, assessing effects of task familiarity, exploratory strategy and memory recognition. What distinguished the blind from the other children was higher memory recognition and higher tactile encoding associated with efficient exploration. These results suggest that enhanced perceptual encoding and recognition memory may be two cognitive correlates of cross-modal plasticity in congenital blindness.

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