A research team led by Professor Franco Lepore, director of the Centre for Research in Neuropsychology and Cognition at the Universit de Montral, has shown that both early- and late-onset blind people have better sound discrimination abilities than people with normal vision. Reported in the latest edition of the journal Current Biology, the study demonstrates for the first time that blind people from both groups perform equally well in tests requiring them to map auditory space beyond their peri-personal environment. These results led the researchers to conclude that neural structures can be reorganized even after the first few years of life.
Until now, similar studies have mainly focused on hearing in near space that can be calibrated by touch or, for example, with a cane. For this particular study, Professor Lepore and his team subjected three groups of ten people each (early- and late-onset blind subjects and a control group of blindfolded, sighted subjects) to spatial hearing tests in which each subject had to locate sounds from three meters away and distinguish them from other ambient noise. The early- and late-onset blind participants were far more successful than the control group at both tasks.
"Humans are remarkably adaptable. We can't quite explain these results," said Professor Lepore. "Of course, hearing is far more important to blind people so it's possible that they spend proportionately more time developing this sense. It's also possible that their superior performance reflects cross-modal cortical reorganization."
Professor Lepore's research team has long been interested in cross-modal cortical reorganization and the use of different sensory systems to compensate for losses. Back in 1998, Nature published the team's study on near-space auditory mapping by blind people. Earlier this year, this same journal published another study by this group on superior tone discrimination abilities in the blind. The study published toPage: 1 2 Related medicine news :1
Contact: Sophie Langlois
University of Montreal
. Indiana University researchers closer to helping hearing-impaired using stem cells2
. Boston University team finds link between high cholesterol and better cognitive performance3
. University seeks recruits for arthritis study4
. University of Manchester awarded 826k for brain science and mental health research5
. $4 million grant boosts University of Michigan campaign for a new childrens hospital6
. Lead in the environment causes violent crime, reports University of Pittsburgh researcher at AAAS7
. Next generation body scanner launched by the University of Manchester8
. University of Washington joins new Autism Treatment Network to provide better medical services9
. Binghamton University launches microelectronics research center10
. University of Manchester makes made-to-measure skin and bones a reality using inkjet printers11
. RelayHealth selected by Columbia University to link doctors and patients online