Concepts in individuals with visual impairments

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Chapter 5 endnote 50, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

Depending on the immediate circumstances, your brain might also sample fully clothed instances of “Embarrassment” where you felt exposed, like answering a question wrongly in class, but not more private embarrassment like forgetting your best friend’s birthday.

Chapter 7 endnote 3, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

Even people who are blind since birth have a concept of “Red” that they learn from conversations and books.

This broad sampling of cues within a situation explains why blind individuals have very similar concepts as sighted individuals, including emotion concepts. Although they have little or no visual sampling of situational details, they still sample from other exteroceptive systems and interoceptive cues as situational information as do sighted people. The shear breadth of cues sampled across the senses means that the blind and sighted person can construct rather similar concepts because they are doing the same highly multisensory sampling within the same situation (where the blind person is missing simply one sense input).

In fact, a paper by Roger Shepard shows that both colorblind and congenitally blind people have a mental structure of color concepts that is similar to that of normally sighted people.[1] And, strikingly, neurons in the anterior portions of the ventral visual stream (which are known to represent visual concepts)[2] are virtually indistinguishable in their organization and connectivity in sighted and congenitally blind individuals.[3][4] Visual cortex also shows an increase in activity during language processing,[5] further supporting the hypothesis that language can support perceptual processing in individuals with impaired vision.


Notes on the Notes

  1. Shepard, Roger N., and Lynn A. Cooper. 1992. “Representation of Colors in the Blind, Color-Blind, and Normally Sighted.” Psychological Science 3 (2): 97–104.
  2. Grill-Spector, Kalanit, and Kevin S. Weiner. 2014. "The functional architecture of the ventral temporal cortex and its role in categorization." Nature Reviews Neuroscience 15 (8): 536-548.
  3. Wang, Xiaoying, Marius V. Peelen, Zaizhu Han, Chenxi He, Alfonso Caramazza, and Yanchao Bi. 2015. "How visual is the visual cortex? Comparing connectional and functional fingerprints between congenitally blind and sighted individuals." Journal of Neuroscience 35 (36): 12545-12559.
  4. Also see Koster-Hale, Jorie, Marina Bedny, and Rebecca Saxe. 2014. "Thinking about seeing: Perceptual sources of knowledge are encoded in the theory of mind brain regions of sighted and blind adults." Cognition 133 (1): 65-78.
  5. Bedny, Marina, Alvaro Pascual-Leone, David Dodell-Feder, Evelina Fedorenko, and Rebecca Saxe. 2011. "Language processing in the occipital cortex of congenitally blind adults." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108 (11): 4429-4434.