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Deaf Gain: Evidence for enhanced beat perception to vibrotactile rhythms in Deaf individuals

Deaf Gain: Evidence for enhanced beat perception to vibrotactile rhythms in Deaf individuals

Name:Sean Gilmore

School/Affiliation:Toronto Metropolitan University

Co-Authors:Harley Glassman and Frank Ruso

Virtual or In-person:In-person


The term “Deaf Gain” has been used to connote a shift in the conceptualization of deafness from a focus on loss to a focus on what cognitive and cultural aspects of life are gained. Most of the cognitive neuroscience research examining Deaf Gain has focused on enhanced processing of visual stimuli. With compensatory plasticity as the proposed mechanism, research has shown activity in primary auditory cortices in response to visual stimuli. There is also a smaller body of research which has found evidence indicating that auditory regions may also respond to vibrotactile stimuli. With mixed results from research examining enhancements in vibrotactile perception, we sought to examine vibrotactile rhythm perception in a Deaf population. The current study aimed to examine the capacity for vibrotactile beat perception in a sample of deaf and hearing individuals. To compare beat perception ability, we examined sensorimotor synchronization (SMS) as well as neural activity at the frequency of the beat using EEG. In each condition, participants felt a series of vibrotactile rhythms that varied in rhythmic complexity. We hypothesize that, compared to hearing individuals, deaf individuals will show enhanced beat perception to vibrotactile rhythms, specifically the more complex rhythms. EEG results indicate heightened oscillatory activity to vibrotactile rhythms in individuals who are deaf compared to those who are hearing. SMS results revealed a significant interaction, with SMS ability specifically heightened in complex rhythms, but only for the Deaf individuals. Together, these results provide evidence for Deaf Gain in vibrotactile rhythm perception.

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