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Full Access An extrastriate body-selective area in the congenitally blind

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An extrastriate body-selective area in the congenitally blind

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Vision is by far the most prevalent modality for experiencing others’ body postures and motion, and thus their actions and intents. The absence of visual experience therefore poses a unique situation for the creation of the brain’s representation of body information. Would a congenital absence of this information, generating also a lack of expertise and exposure to body shapes (except from very limited experience via touch) still allow for the development of the body-selective areas? And where may body-selectivity be found? Would it be limited to the parieto-frontal cortices, based on the input modality for such information in the blind? We investigated this question using a visual-to-auditory sensory-substitution algorithm, enabling congenitally fully-blind adults to perceive full-body configurations. We find that despite the sole exposure of body shape information via the somatosensory modality, the blind activated primarily the visual cortex, and specifically the location of the Extrastriate Body Area (EBA) during the perception of body shapes. Moreover, the blind showed selectivity of the right inferior temporal sulcus, in the general anatomical location of the extrastriate body area, for the perception of body-shapes over textures, objects and even faces as is seen in normally sighted people. Thus, the EBA region may develop and engage in its role in perception of body-information in the absence of vast exposure to body-shape information, and even in the absence of visual experience.

Affiliations: 1: 1Department of Medical Neurobiology, The Institute for Medical Research Israel–Canada, Faculty of Medicine, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Vision is by far the most prevalent modality for experiencing others’ body postures and motion, and thus their actions and intents. The absence of visual experience therefore poses a unique situation for the creation of the brain’s representation of body information. Would a congenital absence of this information, generating also a lack of expertise and exposure to body shapes (except from very limited experience via touch) still allow for the development of the body-selective areas? And where may body-selectivity be found? Would it be limited to the parieto-frontal cortices, based on the input modality for such information in the blind? We investigated this question using a visual-to-auditory sensory-substitution algorithm, enabling congenitally fully-blind adults to perceive full-body configurations. We find that despite the sole exposure of body shape information via the somatosensory modality, the blind activated primarily the visual cortex, and specifically the location of the Extrastriate Body Area (EBA) during the perception of body shapes. Moreover, the blind showed selectivity of the right inferior temporal sulcus, in the general anatomical location of the extrastriate body area, for the perception of body-shapes over textures, objects and even faces as is seen in normally sighted people. Thus, the EBA region may develop and engage in its role in perception of body-information in the absence of vast exposure to body-shape information, and even in the absence of visual experience.

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/content/journals/10.1163/22134808-000s0158
2013-05-16
2016-12-09

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