Poster D109, Monday, March 27, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Improving visuo-spatial abilities in blind youngsters using programmable tactile displays
Fabrizio Leo1, Carla Tinti2, Silvia Chiesa2, Roberta Cavaglià2, Susanna Schmidt2, Luca Brayda1; 1Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, 2Università di Torino
The ability to memorize and integrate spatial images is crucial to build cognitive maps at the developmental age and to properly navigate in unknown environments. Blind people are known to have issues in building spatial information as compared to sighted individuals. In our work, we aimed at investigating whether a training with tactile matrices displayed with a programmable tactile display is able to improve recalling performance of spatial images in three groups of blind, low vision and sighted youngsters between 6 and 18 years old. The training consisted in 4 sessions with a weekly schedule in which participants were asked to memorize single or double spatial layouts, featured as two-dimensional matrices. Results showed that all groups of participants significantly improved their recalling performance compared to the first session baseline in the single-matrix task. We did not observe any statistical difference in performance between groups. On the contrary, blind and low vision participants did not show a learning effect in the double-matrix task whereas blindfolded sighted controls did. We also coded tactile exploration strategies in both tests and their correlation with performance. Sighted youngsters, in particular, were in favour of a proprioceptive exploration strategy. Finally, performance in the double-matrix task negatively correlated with the use of one hand and positively correlated with a proprioceptive strategy. Our study confirms that blind persons do not easily process two separate spatial representations. On the other hand, rehabilitation programs promoting bi-manual and proprioceptive approaches to tactile exploration might help to improve spatial abilities.
Topic Area: PERCEPTION & ACTION: Other