on cardiac interoception, an interoceptive submodality with important links to emotional processing and bodily self-awareness.
Thirty-six blind and sighted people were asked to count their heartbeats without checking their pulse or touching their bodies. At the same time, the researchers recorded the participants’ actual heart rates with a pulse oximeter.
They then compared the report to the recorded numbers to assess how well the participants could feel their heartbeat. The analysis showed that the blind participants were superior to the sighted participants in sensing the heartbeat.
On a scale where 1.0 represents a perfect score, the blind group had a mean accuracy of 0.78, while the sighted group had a mean accuracy of 0.63. Blind participants were better at counting heart beats than sighted participants in our study and several previous studies.
These findings were published General Journal of Experimental Psychology give us important insight into the plasticity of the brain and how the loss of one sense can enhance the ability to sense others, in this case your own body.
According to the researchers, the ability to sense these heartbeats may provide an advantage during emotional processing. Previous research has linked the degree of interoceptive accuracy, the ability to sense the internal state of the body, to how well people perceive emotions in themselves and others.
It is known that cardiac signals and emotions are closely related; for example, when we feel fear, our heart beats faster. It is possible that blind people’s heightened sensitivity to signals from their hearts also affects their emotional experiences.
The research team will now continue to study how blind people perceive their bodies, testing whether structural changes in the visual cortex, the brain region normally responsible for vision, can be explained by an increased ability to sense signals from within the body.