A recent paper in Experimental Brain Research from Emory neuroscientist Krish Sathian and colleagues demonstrates that congenitally blind study participants displayed superior verbal, but not spatial abilities, when compared to their sighted counterparts. This may reflect both greater reliance on verbal information, and the recruitment of the visual cortex for verbal tasks.
Sathian’s team has also been investigating, through brain imaging studies, whether the visual cortex is involved in the processing of metaphors (2016 SFN abstract) in the congenitally blind. They previously showed that blind study participants were better at identifying rotated objects by touch.
Lab Land notes that a number of distinguished songwriters and authors were blind, ranging from musicians Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder to Paradise Lost author John Milton and Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges. In contrast to Charles and Wonder, Milton and Borges became blind later in life. The Emory scientists conclude:
“Studies comparing congenitally, early, and late blind groups to the sighted are required in order to determine whether superior performance on these [verbal] tasks is exclusive to the congenitally blind”.