Deaf, blind or deaf-blind: Is touch enhanced?

Costanza Papagno, Carlo Cecchetto, Alberto Pisoni, Nadia Bolognini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When someone looses one type of sensory input, s/he may compensate by using the sensory information conveyed by other senses. To verify whether loosing a sense or two has consequences on a spared sensory modality, namely touch, and whether these consequences depend on the type of sensory loss, we investigated the effects of deafness and blindness on temporal and spatial tactile tasks in deaf, blind and deaf-blind people. Deaf and deaf-blind people performed the spatial tactile task better than the temporal one, while blind and controls showed the opposite pattern. Deaf and deaf-blind participants were impaired in temporal discrimination as compared to controls, while deaf-blind individuals outperformed blind participants in the spatial tactile task. Overall, sensory-deprived participants did not show an enhanced tactile performance. We speculate that discriminative touch is not so relevant in humans, while social touch is. Probably, more complex tactile tasks would have revealed an increased performance in sensory-deprived people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-636
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Blindness
  • Deaf-blind
  • Deafness
  • Tactile spatial discrimination
  • Tactile temporal discrimination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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