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The Effect of Blindness on Long-Term Episodic Memory for Odors and Sounds
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics. Karolinska Institutet, Sweden; Radboud University, Netherlands.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
Number of Authors: 42018 (English)In: Frontiers in Psychology, ISSN 1664-1078, E-ISSN 1664-1078, Vol. 9, article id 1003Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

We recently showed that compared with sighted, early blind individuals have better episodic memory for environmental sounds, but not odors, after a short retention interval (similar to 8 - 9 min). Few studies have investigated potential effects of blindness on memory across long time frames, such as months or years. Consequently, it was unclear whether compensatory effects may vary as a function of retention interval. In this study, we followed-up participants (N = 57 out of 60) approximately 1 year after the initial testing and retested episodic recognition for environmental sounds and odors, and identification ability. In contrast to our previous findings, the early blind participants (n = 14) performed at a similar level as the late blind (n = 13) and sighted (n = 30) participants for sound recognition. Moreover, the groups had similar recognition performance of odors and identification ability of odors and sounds. These findings suggest that episodic odor memory is unaffected by blindness after both short and long retention intervals. However, the effect of blindness on episodic memory for sounds may vary as a function of retention interval, such that early blind individuals have an advantage over sighted across short but not long time frames. We speculate that the finding of a differential effect of blindness on auditory episodic memory across retention intervals may be related to different memory strategies at initial and follow-up assessments. In conclusion, this study suggests that blindness does not influence auditory or olfactory episodic memory as assessed after a long retention interval.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 9, article id 1003
Keywords [en]
blindness, compensatory effect, environmental sounds, episodic recognition, identification, long-term odor memory
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-158250DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01003ISI: 000435741900002PubMedID: 29973898OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-158250DiVA, id: diva2:1238224
Available from: 2018-08-13 Created: 2018-08-13 Last updated: 2019-01-20Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Auditory and Olfactory Abilities in Blind and Sighted Individuals: More Similarities than Differences
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Auditory and Olfactory Abilities in Blind and Sighted Individuals: More Similarities than Differences
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Blind individuals face various challenges in everyday life because of the lack of visual input. However, since they need to rely on the non-visual senses for everyday tasks, for instance, when navigating the environment, the question has been raised as to whether perceptual and cognitive abilities in these senses may be enhanced. This question has mainly been addressed for auditory and tactile abilities, whereas there is considerably less research into the chemical senses, such as olfaction. However, to determine whether blindness has general effects, different senses and types of tasks should be studied, preferably in one and the same study. Therefore, throughout this thesis, analogous auditory and olfactory tasks that varied in cognitive complexity were studied. In Study I, absolute thresholds, discrimination, identification, episodic recognition (i.e., after a short retention interval), metacognition, and self-reported imagery ability were assessed in early blind, late blind, and sighted participants. The only objective measure on which the blind and sighted clearly differed was the auditory episodic recognition task. The fact that early blind but not late blind participants displayed better memory than the sighted suggested that the onset age of blindness may be important for whether this ability becomes enhanced following blindness. Furthermore, the early blind participants rated their auditory imagery ability higher than the sighted, whereas both early and late blind participants rated their olfactory imagery ability higher than the sighted. In Study II, the participants from Study I were followed up after more than a year and retested on auditory and olfactory episodic recognition and identification. This time, the early blind displayed no advantage over the sighted, suggesting that the influence of blindness on auditory memory may be modulated by the length of the retention interval. Moreover, in line with Study I, identification of sounds and odors was similar in the three groups. In Study III, early blind and sighted participants were examined for potential differences in autobiographical memory as evoked by sounds and odors, respectively. Blindness did not influence the reminiscence bumps (i.e., memory peaks in certain age intervals) or have any clear impact on the number of retrieved sound- or odor-evoked memories. Taken together, the present findings indicate that blindness has no general influence across tasks or sensory modalities. Rather, specific auditory abilities, such as episodic memory, may be enhanced in blind individuals, although such effects may depend on both the onset age of blindness and the length of the retention interval. In conclusion, for most perceptual and cognitive abilities examined, performance seemed unaffected by blindness.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, 2018. p. 91
Keywords
absolute threshold, audition, autobiographical memory, blindness, discrimination, episodic recognition, identification, imagery, judgments of learning, memory, metacognition, olfaction, onset age of blindness, reminiscence bump, sensory compensation
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-159090 (URN)978-91-7797-376-8 (ISBN)978-91-7797-377-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-10-26, David Magnussonsalen (U31), Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Manuscript.

Available from: 2018-09-23 Created: 2018-09-03 Last updated: 2019-01-21Bibliographically approved

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