Neuropsychology: pitch discrimination in the early blind

Nature. 2004 Jul 15;430(6997):309. doi: 10.1038/430309a.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Blindness / physiopathology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*