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Neuropsychology

Pitch discrimination in the early blind

Nature volume 430, page 309 (15 July 2004) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Do blind people develop superior abilities in auditory perception to compensate for their lack of vision? They are known to be better than sighted people at orientating themselves by sound, but it is not clear whether this enhanced awareness extends to other auditory domains, such as listening to music or to voices. Here we show that blind people are better than sighted controls at judging the direction of pitch change between sounds, even when the speed of change is ten times faster than that perceived by the controls — but only if they became blind at an early age. The younger the onset of blindness, the better is the performance, which is in line with cerebral plasticity being optimal during the early years.

People blinded in infancy have sharper listening skills than those who lost their sight later.

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Affiliations

  1. *Centre de Recherche en Neuropsychologie et Cognition, Département de Psychologie, Université de Montréal, CP 6128, Succursale Centre-ville, Montréal, Québec H3C 3J7, Canada

    • Frédéric Gougoux
    • , Franco Lepore
    • , Maryse Lassonde
    • , Patrice Voss
    •  & Pascal Belin
  2. †Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montréal, Québec H3A 2B4, Canada

    • Robert J. Zatorre

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Pascal Belin.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/430309a

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