Early- and late-onset blind individuals show supra-normal auditory abilities in far-space

Curr Biol. 2004 Oct 5;14(19):1734-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2004.09.051.


Blind individuals manifest remarkable abilities in navigating through space despite their lack of vision. They have previously been shown to perform normally or even supra-normally in tasks involving spatial hearing in near space, a region that, however, can be calibrated with sensory-motor feedback. Here we show that blind individuals not only properly map auditory space beyond their peri-personal environment but also demonstrate supra-normal performance when subtle acoustic cues for target location and distance must be used to carry out the task. Moreover, it is generally postulated that such abilities rest in part on cross-modal cortical reorganizations, particularly in the immature brain, where important synaptogenesis is still possible. Nonetheless, we show for the first time that even late-onset blind subjects develop above-normal spatial abilities, suggesting that significant compensation can occur in the adult.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Blindness / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Orientation*
  • Sound Localization / physiology*
  • Space Perception*