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Do the blind ‘see’ in dreams?

Do the blind dream as sighted people do? It turns out sensory experiences that are important in waking life also play a large role in dreams.

People who’ve never had visual experience don’t have a visual component to their dreams. Otherwise, their dreaming is a lot like that of sighted people. The sensory experiences that are important to their waking lives also play a large role in their dreams. These experiences can be sounds, textures, temperatures, and the general sense of how the body is feeling, known as “kinesthetic awareness.”

Moreover, these non-visual stimuli often play a symbolic role in dreams, as visual stimuli can in the dreams of sighted people. In other words, instead of seeing a train in their dream, a blind person might experience the smells, sounds and feeling of motion associated with a train.

A critical period between ages five and seven determines whether a person will dream with visual imagery. People who’ve been blind from birth, or who lose their sight before age five, generally won’t have a visual component to their dreams. But people who lose their sight after age seven will.

After this critical period, memory and imagination both play a role in dreams. Adults who lose their sight after age seven can retain memories of things they saw before they lost their sight. These memories, along with constructed images, will form part of the dream experience.

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