In touch with sight

Research reveals people who are blind from birth experience touch differently to those with sight


A new study has confirmed that the neural network responsible for linking the sense of touch to a location in space develops differently in individuals who are blind from birth.

The research, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, studied the reactions of eight congenitally blind study participants as they had air blasts applied to their left and right fingertips. They also observed 11 sighted individuals with blindfolds on, under the same conditions.

Study participants were asked to determine what order the air blasts were applied in.

The scientists found sighted individuals performed worse on the task when their hands were crossed. This trend was not seen in those who were born without sight.

The authors concluded that early visual deprivation alters brain activity, meaning that those with sight learn to localise touch.

“Our results demonstrate that visual experience scaffolds the neural implementation of the location of touch in space,” they highlighted.