, Volume 62, Issue 2, pp 301-312

Tactile perception in blind Braille readers: A psychophysical study of acuity and hyperacuity using gratings and dot patterns

Abstract

It is not clear whether the blind are generally superior to the sighted on measures of tactile sensitivity or whether they excel only on certain tests owing to the specifics of their tactile experience. We compared the discrimination performance of blind Braille readers and age-matched sighted subjects on three tactile tasks using precisely specified stimuli. Initially, the blind significantly outperformed the sighted at a hyperacuity task using Braille-like dot patterns, although, with practice, both groups performed equally well. On two other tasks, hyperacute discrimination of gratings that differed in ridge width and spatial-acuity-dependent discrimination of grating orientation, the performance of the blind did not differ significantly from that of sighted subjects. These results probably reflect the specificity of perceptual learning due to Braille-reading experience.

The findings in this report were presented at the 27th Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. New Orleans, LA (Grant, Thiagarajah, Chevalier, & Sathian, 1997). This work was supported in part by Grant R29NS34111 from the NINDS to K.S.