Blind People have Superior Memory, Researchers Say

Apr 29, 2013 06:11 AM EDT

People who are blind from birth have superior memory skills, according to a new study. These enhanced skills may be the brain's way of making sense of the world when it has no visual input.

The study was conducted by researchers from University of Bath. Previous studies on the subject have shown that people with congenital blindness have both better verbal ability and memory. In this study, researchers conducted a memory-based test on congenitally blind people who lost their sight later and people with good vision.

When people are asked to listen to a group of words, the brain makes "false memory" with it. For example, words like fire and chimney may be recalled as "smoke" due to the brain storing the data as false memory.

The study results showed that not only were people with congenital blindness better with remembering a list of words, they were also less likely to have these false memories.

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"Our results show that visual experience has a significant negative impact on both the number of items remembered and the accuracy of semantic memory and also demonstrate the importance of adaptive neural plasticity in the congenitally blind brain for enhanced memory retrieval mechanisms," said Dr. Michael Proulx, lead author of the study.

"There is an old Hebrew proverb that believes the blind were the most trustworthy sources for quotations and that certainly seems true in this case. It will be interesting to see whether congenitally blind individuals would also be better witnesses in forensic studies," Proulx added.

The study is published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.               

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