Proprioception Body Targeting While Blind

Goals

You're looking to inform decisions related to product development and to help with this, you'd like Wonder to provide information that shows how accurately people can blindly target areas of their body using proprioception, and the ways they improve this accuracy.

Early Findings

ABOUT PROPRICOCEPTION

  • According to MedicineNet, proprioception is "The ability to sense stimuli arising within the body regarding position, motion, and equilibrium."
  • For example, even if a person is blindfolded, they can tell via proprioception whether their arm is hanging by their side, or is above their head.
  • In some cases, sensory integration therapy (a type of occupational therapy) can help improve one's sense of proprioception.

HOW ACCURATELY PEOPLE CAN BLINDLY TARGET AREAS OF THEIR BODY USING PROPRICOCEPTION

  • A 2018 study suggests that there is not much research that has been done in this area/related areas. However, the study did conclude that "short-term visual deprivation boosts plasticity of body representation in terms of multisensory spatial recalibration of hand position sense," which might suggest that proprioception accuracy in terms of targeting areas of the body is decreased when a person is blinded.
  • Another recently published literary study appears to corroborate the lack of data in this area. For example, it notes "The idea that information about hand position is critical for accurately reaching to targets has been supported by many studies over the past few decades. However, which sensory modalities provide this information, and how information from these modalities is combined to provide a single estimate of hand position remains largely unknown."
  • According to insights published by Maplewood Sauk Prairie Rehabilitation Center, vision and the proprioceptive sensory system are strongly linked. For example "issues with the proprioceptive and vestibular system quickly affect one’s vision, from dizziness and shakiness to throwing both eyes off-sync with each other," and "either system, or brain, being out of sync with the eyes can cause a number of problems: the body processing the wrong information, not having enough, or processing it incorrectly." These findings may also provide support for the idea that proprioception accuracy in terms of targeting areas of the body might be decreased when a person is blinded.
  • A 2016 study analyzed three samples (congenitally blind persons, late blind persons, and sighted persons) to compare knee proprioception and found that the congenitally blind group "showed significantly more accurate proprioception" than the late blind group, but "no significant difference" with the sighted group. The study notes that "these results may reflect brain organization according to better non-visual perceptual abilities in the CB subjects and the relationship between proprioceptive acuity in adulthood and non-visual spatial experience during early development."

WAYS IN WHICH THIS ACCURACY CAN BE IMPROVED

  • There is some scientific evidence to suggest that somatosensory training has the ability to improve proprioception in general, and especially for those with Parkinson's Disease.
  • Anti-parkinsonian medications are able to partially restore proprioceptive function in individuals with Parkinson's Disease.
  • According to a 2014 report, "numerous reports advocate that training of the proprioceptive sense is a viable behavioral therapy for improving impaired motor function. However, there is little agreement of what constitutes proprioceptive training and how effective it is." After conducting further analysis, the study concluded that "overall, proprioceptive training resulted in an average improvement of 52% across all outcome measures. Applying muscle vibration above 30 Hz for longer duration (i.e., min vs. s) induced outcome improvements of up to 60%. Joint position and target reaching training consistently enhanced joint position sense (up to 109%) showing an average improvement of 48%."

Proposed next steps:

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Although direct data that very specifically addresses how accurately people can blindly target areas of their body using proprioception and the ways they improve this accuracy appears to be quite limited, there does appear to be a number of studies that examine 1) proprioception accuracy among blind individuals and 2) general ways in which proprioception accuracy may be increased and 3) the roles that vision and proprioception play in one anothers functioning. Given this, we can conduct research to collect any relevant insights into the aforementioned which can then be analyzed and used to draw assumptions in regard to how accurately people can blindly target areas of their body using proprioception, and the possible ways to improve this accuracy. If we do go this route, we will likely have better results if we allow resources that are up to 5-10 years old due to the overall lack of available information on this topic, given that these older sources are highly credible/scientific in nature. However, we will still aim to provide the most recent insights available.