Blind individuals show enhanced perceptual and attentional sensitivity for identification of speech sounds.

Abstract

We report on enhanced processing of speech sounds in congenitally and early blind individuals compared with normally seeing individuals. Two different consonant-vowel (CV) syllables were presented via headphones on each presentation. We used a dichotic listening (DL) procedure with pairwise presentations of CV syllables. The typical finding in this paradigm is a right ear advantage, indicating better processing of the CV-syllable stimuli in the left hemisphere. The dichotic listening procedure involved three different conditions, with instructions to pay attention to the right ear stimulus, the left ear stimulus or no specific instruction. The participants were 14 congenitally or early blind Finnish-speaking individuals that were compared with 129 normal seeing Finnish-speaking individuals. The blind participants reported overall significantly more correct syllables than seeing control subjects. When instructed to pay attention to the left ear stimulus and only report from the attended channel, they were again significantly better than the seeing control subjects. These findings indicate effects of hemispheric reorganization in blind individuals at both the sensory and cognitive levels of information processing in the auditory sensory modality.

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@article{Hugdahl2004BlindIS, title={Blind individuals show enhanced perceptual and attentional sensitivity for identification of speech sounds.}, author={Kenneth Hugdahl and Maria E Ek and Fiia Takio and Taija Rintee and Jyrki Tuomainen and Christian Haarala and Heikki H{\"a}m{\"a}l{\"a}inen}, journal={Brain research. Cognitive brain research}, year={2004}, volume={19 1}, pages={28-32} }