Braille character discrimination in blindfolded human subjects


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Abstract

Visual deprivation may lead to enhanced performance in other sensory modalities. Whether this is the case in the tactile modality is controversial and may depend upon specific training and experience. We compared the performance of sighted subjects on a Braille character discrimination task to that of normal individuals blindfolded for a period of five days. Some participants in each group (blindfolded and sighted) received intensive Braille training to offset the effects of experience. Blindfolded subjects performed better than sighted subjects in the Braille discrimination task, irrespective of tactile training. For the left index finger, which had not been used in the formal Braille classes, blindfolding had no effect on performance while subjects who underwent tactile training outperformed non-stimulated participants. These results suggest that visual deprivation speeds up Braille learning and may be associated with behaviorally relevant neuroplastic changes.

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