Study finds blind people better at sensing their own heartbeats

When estimating heartbeat rate without checking their pulse, individuals with sight loss were more accurate than sighted individuals


New research has found that blind people are better at estimating their pulse rate compared to sighted people.

The study, which was published in Journal of Experimental Psychology, recruited 36 blind participants and 36 sighted controls.

They were asked to count their own heartbeats without checking their pulse, while at the same time researchers measured their actual heartbeats with a pulse oximeter.

On average, blind participants had an accuracy of 0.78, which was higher than sighted participants who had an average accuracy of 0.63.

Doctoral student at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, Dominika Radziun, highlighted that the study provides important information about the brain’s plasticity – and how the loss of one sense can enhance others.

“We know that heart signals and emotions are closely interlinked; for example, our hearts beat faster when we experience fear. It is possible that blind individuals' enhanced sensitivity to signals from their own heart also impacts their emotional experience,” she said.

The study, which also had input from Jagiellonian University in Poland, will next explore mental health indicators in blind and sighted individuals – and how these relate to body-related processes.