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Acta Psychol (Amst). 2004 Jun;116(2):205-22.

Abilities and strategies of blind and sighted subjects in visuo-spatial imagery.

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  • 1Neural Rehabilitation Engineering Laboratory, Universit√© Catholique de Louvain, Av. Hippocrate 54, UCL 54-46, Brussels B-1200, Belgium. vanlierde@gren.ucl.ac.be

Abstract

An active visuo-spatial memory task was used in order to determine the characteristics of mental imagery in subjects with and without visual experience. Subjects were instructed to generate a mental representation of verbally presented 2D patterns that were placed in a grid and to indicate how many pattern elements were in corresponding positions in the two halves of the grid according to a specific grid axis (vertical or horizontal). Unexpectedly, results showed a similar performance in early blind, late blind and sighted subjects. However, subjects' debriefing showed that the three groups used different strategies. The sighted and the late blind subjects took advantage of a visuo-spatial strategy. They generated a mental image of the matrix and they simplified this image to maintain only the relevant information in memory. In contrast, the early blind subjects encoded each pattern element by its location in a (X,Y) coordinate system without visual representation. This indicates that both early and late blind subjects are able to perform an active visuo-spatial imagery task as well as sighted subjects although they use different strategies.

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