Infant blindness boosts music ability
Infants who go blind at a very young age develop musical abilities that are measurably better than those who lose their sight later in life or retain full vision, according to a new study.
Infants who go blind
at a very young age develop musical abilities that are measurably better than those who lose their sight later in life or retain full vision, according to a new study. It has long been known that blind people are far better than their sighted counterparts at orientating themselves by sound. But now scientists from Canada's University of Montreal have found that blind people are also up to 10 times better at discerning pitch changes than the sighted - but only when they went blind before the age of two. The researchers found that there was no difference in pitch change detection between sighted people and those who went blind later in childhood. The superiority was correlated with the age of blindness.
Only the blind subjects who had become blind before the age of two had a clearly superior performance. Late blind subjects, people who became blind after the age of five, were no different from the control subjects. The research attributed the clear differences in performance to brain plasticity - the formative period when the infant brain is akin to a sponge and soaking up all sorts of stimuli.
When these people became blind, the part of their brain that would have been used to process visual information reorganises to take over other functions - and in particular auditory information. And the earlier this reorganisation takes place, the more efficient it is.
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