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  • 1.
    Cornell Kärnekull, Stina
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
    Auditory and Olfactory Abilities in Blind and Sighted Individuals: More Similarities than Differences2018Doctoral 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.

     

  • 2.
    Cornell Kärnekull, Stina
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
    Arshamian, Artin
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics. Karolinska Institutet, Sweden; Radboud University, Netherlands.
    Nilsson, Mats E.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
    Larsson, Maria
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
    From Perception to Metacognition: Auditory and Olfactory Functions in Early Blind, Late Blind, and Sighted Individuals2016In: Frontiers in Psychology, ISSN 1664-1078, E-ISSN 1664-1078, Vol. 7, article id 1450Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Although evidence is mixed, studies have shown that blind individuals perform better than sighted at specific auditory, tactile, and chemosensory tasks. However, few studies have assessed blind and sighted individuals across different sensory modalities in the same study. We tested early blind (n = 15), late blind (n = 15), and sighted (n = 30) participants with analogous olfactory and auditory tests in absolute threshold, discrimination, identification, episodic recognition, and metacognitive ability. Although the multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) showed no overall effect of blindness and no interaction with modality, follow-up between-group contrasts indicated a blind-over-sighted advantage in auditory episodic recognition, that was most pronounced in early blind individuals. In contrast to the auditory modality, there was no empirical support for compensatory effects in any of the olfactory tasks. There was no conclusive evidence for group differences in metacognitive ability to predict episodic recognition performance. Taken together, the results showed no evidence of an overall superior performance in blind relative sighted individuals across olfactory and auditory functions, although early blind individuals exceled in episodic auditory recognition memory. This observation may be related to an experience-induced increase in auditory attentional capacity.

  • 3.
    Cornell Kärnekull, Stina
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
    Arshamian, Artin
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics. Karolinska Institutet, Sweden; Radboud University, Netherlands.
    Nilsson, Mats E.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
    Larsson, Maria
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
    The Effect of Blindness on Long-Term Episodic Memory for Odors and Sounds2018In: Frontiers in Psychology, ISSN 1664-1078, E-ISSN 1664-1078, Vol. 9, article id 1003Article in journal (Refereed)
    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.

  • 4.
    Cornell Kärnekull, Stina
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
    Arshamian, Artin
    Willander, Johan
    Jönsson, Fredrik U.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
    Nilsson, Mats E.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
    Larsson, Maria
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
    The reminiscence bump is blind to blindness: Evidence from sound- and odor-evoked autobiographical memoryManuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    Autobiographical memories (AMs) evoked by sensory cues, such as words, pictures, and sounds, typically form reminiscence bumps in adolescence and young adulthood. However, odors constitute an exception by shifting the bump to early childhood. Olfaction may be a “sense of first impressions”, as indicated by a unique hippocampal representation in the brain for first odor-to-object associations. However, the influence of the individual’s sensory function on AMs has never been examined. We examined the reminiscence bumps of sound- and odor-evoked memories of early-blind and sighted individuals, since blindness implies considerable changes in sensory experience. Despite such changes, the groups displayed similar age distributions of both sound- and odor-evoked memories. The auditory bump seemed to span the first two decades of life, whereas the olfactory bump was once again found in early childhood. Hence, the reminiscence bumps were robust to differences in sensory function and experience.

  • 5.
    Cornell Kärnekull, Stina
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
    Jönsson, Fredrik U.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Cognitive psychology.
    Larsson, Maria
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
    Olofsson, Jonas K.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
    Affected by Smells?: Environmental Chemical Responsivity Predicts Odor Perception2011In: Chemical Senses, ISSN 0379-864X, E-ISSN 1464-3553, Vol. 36, no 7, p. 641-648Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Strong negative reactions, physical symptoms, and behavioral disruptions due to environmental odors are common in the adult population. We investigated relationships among such environmental chemosensory responsivity (CR), personality traits, affective states, and odor perception. Study 1 showed that CR and neuroticism were positively correlated in a sample of young adults (n = 101), suggesting that persons high in neuroticism respond more negatively to environmental odors. Study 2 explored the relationships among CR, noise responsivity (NR), neuroticism, and odor perception (i.e., pleasantness and intensity) in a subset of participants (n = 40). High CR was associated with high NR. Regression analyses indicated that high CR predicted higher odor intensity ratings and low olfactory threshold (high sensitivity) predicted lower pleasantness ratings. However, neuroticism was not directly associated with odor ratings or thresholds. Overall, the results suggest that CR and odor thresholds predict perceptual ratings of odors and that high CR is associated with nonchemosensory affective traits.

  • 6.
    Cornell Kärnekull, Stina
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
    Jönsson, Fredrik U.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Cognitive psychology.
    Willander, Johan
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology. University College of Gävle, Sweden.
    Sikström, Sverker
    Larsson, Maria
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
    Long-Term Memory for Odors: Influences of Familiarity and Identification Across 64 Days2015In: Chemical Senses, ISSN 0379-864X, E-ISSN 1464-3553, Vol. 40, no 4, p. 259-267Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Few studies have investigated long-term odor recognition memory, although some early observations suggested that the forgetting rate of olfactory representations is slower than for other sensory modalities. This study investigated recognition memory across 64 days for high and low familiar odors and faces. Memory was assessed in 83 young participants at 4 occasions; immediate, 4, 16, and 64 days after encoding. The results indicated significant forgetting for odors and faces across the 64 days. The forgetting functions for the 2 modalities were not fundamentally different. Moreover, high familiar odors and faces were better remembered than low familiar ones, indicating an important role of semantic knowledge on recognition proficiency for both modalities. Although odor recognition was significantly better than chance at the 64 days testing, memory for the low familiar odors was relatively poor. Also, the results indicated that odor identification consistency across sessions, irrespective of accuracy, was positively related to successful recognition.

  • 7.
    Larsson, Maria
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
    Arshamian, Artin
    Cornell Kärnekull, Stina
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
    Odor-Based Context Dependent Memory2017In: Springer Handbook of Odor / [ed] Andrea Buettner, Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2017, p. 105-106Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Even though rarely thought of, all environmental spaces contain odor information. It has been proposed that the preconditions for episodic olfactory memory may not be optimal. For example, environmental olfactory information often goes unnoticed and barely evokes attention in humans and semantic activations that are a prerequisite for optimal episodic memory functioning are typically restricted. Still, it is highly likely that olfactory information will become part of a memory representation that is linked to a specific event. This implies that an event-congruent exposure of an odor carries the potential to trigger all, or parts of, a previous episode. Indeed, available evidence shows that odors may serve as powerful reminders of past experiences. This is demonstrated by studies exploring the nature of odor-evoked autobiographical memories and by controlled experimental paradigms where odors have been embedded in a learning context and later reinstated at retrieval where an increased memory recollection for the target information is often observed. These observations converge on the notion that odor memories are retained over long periods of time.

    In this chapter, we will highlight olfactory cueing of memory and how odors may act as reminders of the recent and distant past.

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