Congenital blindness appears to offer protection against schizophrenia. Researchers trying to figure out why.

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No person who was born blind has ever been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

This is especially surprising, since congenital blindness often results from infections, brain trauma, or genetic mutation—all factors that are independently associated with greater risk of psychotic disorders.

Vision gives us a lot of information about the world around us, and is an important sense that helps link together other sensory cues, like sound and touch, [researcher Tom] Pollak said. If the way a person sees the world is off, it can make it harder to predict, correct errors, and build a model of the world that makes sense. And when people have problems with their vision, the brain has to make more predictions to explain them. On the other hand, if you couldn’t see anything, you wouldn’t build up those false representations of the world around you—which could lead to problems in thinking later on.

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“The idea we’re trying to get at is, there must be something different in the representation and the stability of the internal world in congenitally blind people,” Pollak said. “And that stability, in a way, is keeping itself protective against the kind of mistakes and false inferences that you get in schizophrenia and psychotic disorders.”

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