Auditory spatial representations of the world are compressed in blind humans
Experimental Brain Research
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Kolarik, A., Pardhan, S., Cirstea, S., & Moore, B. (2017). Auditory spatial representations of the world are compressed in blind humans. Experimental Brain Research, 235 (2), 597-606. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-016-4823-1
Compared to sighted listeners, blind listeners often display enhanced auditory spatial abilities such as localization in azimuth. However, less is known about whether blind humans can accurately judge distance in extrapersonal space using auditory cues alone. Using virtualization techniques, we show that auditory spatial representations of the world beyond the peripersonal space of blind listeners are compressed compared to those for normally sighted controls. Blind participants overestimated the distance to nearby sources and underestimated the distance to remote sound sources, in both reverberant and anechoic environments, and for speech, music, and noise signals. Functions relating judged and actual virtual distance were well fitted by compressive power functions, indicating that the absence of visual information regarding the distance of sound sources may prevent accurate calibration of the distance information provided by auditory signals.
blindness, spatial hearing, auditory distance, multisensory plasticity, sound localization
This research was supported by MRC Grant G0701870 and the Vision and Eye Research Unit (VERU), Postgraduate Medical Institute at Anglia Ruskin University.
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External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-016-4823-1
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/262190