Canadian researchers have published a paper that seeks to answer whether blind people enjoy an enhanced sense of touch because their brains are compensating for sight loss or because they use their fingertips to do so much.
According to the study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, it is the regular use of their fingertips to learn about their environment that explains blind individuals’ keen sense of touch.
In a trial that included 28 blind subjects and 55 sighted subjects, all were tested for sensitivity in their fingers and in their lower lips. According to the source for this story, Medical News Today, “Researchers reasoned that, if daily dependence on touch improves tactile sensitivity, then blind participants would outperform the sighted on all fingers, and blind Braille readers would show particular sensitivity on their reading fingers. But if vision loss alone improves tactile sensitivity, then blind participants would outperform the sighted on all body areas, even those that blind and sighted people use equally often, such as the lips.”
It turns out that blind participants who read Braille performed markedly better on the fingertip sensitivity test, while all participants scored equally when it came to the powers of sensation in the lips. Scientists are hoping to apply this knowledge to finding ways to improving the sense of touch, which is particularly important to those who become blind later in life and find it very difficult to master Braille.