Journal article

Decoding reach direction in early “visual” cortex of congenitally blind individuals


  • Bola, Lukas Institute of Psychology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw
  • Vetter, Petra Visual & Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, Department of Psychology, University of Fribourg
  • Wenger Mohr Department of Medical Neurobiology, Faculty of Medicine, Hebrew University Jerusalem
  • Amedi, Amir The Baruch Ivcher Institute for Brain, Cognition & Technology, Reichman University, Herzliya
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  • 02.10.2023
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  • The Journal of Neuroscience. - Society for Neuroscience. - 2023
English Motor actions, such as reaching or grasping, can be decoded from fMRI activity of early visual cortex in sighted humans. This effect can depend on vision or visual imagery, or alternatively, could be driven by mechanisms independent of visual experience. Here, we show that the actions of reaching in different directions can be reliably decoded from fMRI activity of early visual cortex in congenitally blind humans (both sexes). Thus, neither visual experience nor visual imagery is necessary for early visual cortex to represent action-related information. We also demonstrate that, within early visual cortex of blind humans, the accuracy of reach direction decoding is highest in areas typically representing foveal vision and gradually decreases in areas typically representing peripheral vision. We propose that this might indicate the existence of a predictive, hard-wired mechanism of aligning action and visual spaces. This mechanism might send action-related information primarily to the high-resolution foveal visual areas, which are critical for guiding and online correction of motor actions. Finally, we show that, beyond early visual cortex, the decoding of reach direction in blind humans is most accurate in dorsal stream areas known to be critical for visuo-spatial and visuo-motor integration in the sighted. Thus, these areas can develop space and action representations even in the lifelong absence of vision. Overall, our findings in congenitally blind humans match previous research on the action system in the sighted, and suggest that the development of action representations in the human brain might be largely independent of visual experience.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Département de Psychologie
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