The Human Dorsal Action Control System Develops in the Absence of Vision

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The primate dorsal pathway has been proposed to compute vision for action. Although recent findings suggest that dorsal pathway structures contribute to somatosensory action control as well, it is yet not clear whether or not the development of dorsal pathway functions depends on early visual experience. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated the pattern of cortical activation in congenitally blind and matched blindfolded sighted adults while performing kinesthetically guided hand movements. Congenitally blind adults activated similar dorsal pathway structures as sighted controls. Group-specific activations were found in the extrastriate cortex and the auditory cortex for congenitally blind humans and in the precuneus and the presupplementary motor area for sighted humans. Dorsal pathway activity was in addition observed for working memory maintenance of kinesthetic movement information in both groups. Thus, the results suggest that dorsal pathway functions develop in the absence of vision. This favors the idea of a general mechanism of movement control that operates regardless of the sensory input modality. Group differences in cortical activation patterns imply different movement control strategies as a function of visual experience.

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