Image_5_The Effect of Blindness on Long-Term Episodic Memory for Odors and Sounds.PDF (95.27 kB)

Image_5_The Effect of Blindness on Long-Term Episodic Memory for Odors and Sounds.PDF

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posted on 20.06.2018, 04:26 by Stina Cornell Kärnekull, Artin Arshamian, Mats E. Nilsson, Maria Larsson

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 (∼ 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.