Working memory in intact modalities among individuals with sensory deprivation

Eyal Heled, Maayan Ohayon, Or Oshri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The sensory compensation hypothesis posits that sensory deficits in one modality can lead to enhanced performance of cognitive tasks relying on another, intact modality. Most studies in this area have explored the visual and auditory senses, with inconsistent findings. Meanwhile, the tactile modality has rarely been examined in this context. The present study compared working memory (WM) abilities in the intact senses of individuals with sensory deprivation. Fourteen participants with blindness and 20 with deafness performed a tactile WM task and a verbal or visuospatial WM tasks, respectively. They were compared to 22 age- and education-matched controls who performed all WM tasks. Results showed participants with blindness outperform the other two groups in the tactile WM task and are better than controls in the auditory task. The deafness group outperformed the controls in the visuospatial but not the tactile task. The forward span was longer than the backward span in all modality types and no group by modality interaction was found. Finally, the effect size of differences between blindness and control groups were significantly higher than those of the deafness and control groups' differences. These findings show that blindness and deafness are associated with WM superiority in the intact modality, although not equally. Therefore, the sensory compensation hypothesis in the context of WM is only partially supported as factors, other than deprivation per se may influence performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere09558
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes

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  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Modality
  • Span task
  • Tactual span
  • Working memory


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