Early visual deprivation affects the development of face recognition and of audio-visual speech perception

Biological Psychology and Neuropsychology, University of Hamburg, Germany.
Restorative neurology and neuroscience (Impact Factor: 2.49). 01/2010; 28(2):251-7. DOI: 10.3233/RNN-2010-0526
Source: PubMed


The investigation of patients treated for bilateral congenital cataracts allows to study the development of visual and multisensory functions after a period of visual deprivation in early infancy. In the present study, cataract patients were tested for their capability to recognize faces and to integrate auditory and visual speech information.
In Experiment 1, 12 cataract patients were tested with the Benton Facial Recognition Test. In Experiment 2, a McGurk paradigm was used that investigated audio-visual interaction and lip-reading capabilities. Here, fifteen cataract patients participated and were compared to normally sighted controls and to visually impaired controls.
In the Benton Facial Recognition Test, cataract patients' performance was unimpaired when target and test face were identical. By contrast, they performed worse than a normally sighted control group when head orientation and/or lighting conditions of the test faces were changed. In the McGurk paradigm, cataract patients displayed impaired lip-reading abilities and a reduced audio-visual interaction compared to normally sighted controls. The latter deficit prevailed even in a sub-group matched for lip-reading capacities with a normally sighted control sub-group.
These results suggest that visual input in early infancy is a prerequisite for a normal development of visual and multisensory functions.

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    • "A subsequent study corroborated the deficit in varying head position and lighting conditions and revealed a deficit for lip reading using a more complex task (Putzar et al., 2010b). Specifically, Putzar et al. (2010b) investigated lip reading with the McGurk effect, which relies on the integration of visual and auditory speech cues. A follow-up study using fMRI found that observers with amblyopia exhibited a different pattern of cortical activation when lip reading. "
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    ABSTRACT: Amblyopia is a neurodevelopmental disorder of the visual system that is associated with disrupted binocular vision during early childhood. There is evidence that the effects of amblyopia extend beyond the primary visual cortex to regions of the dorsal and ventral extra-striate visual cortex involved in visual integration. Here, we review the current literature on global processing deficits in observers with either strabismic, anisometropic, or deprivation amblyopia. A range of global processing tasks have been used to investigate the extent of the cortical deficit in amblyopia including: global motion perception, global form perception, face perception, and biological motion. These tasks appear to be differentially affected by amblyopia. In general, observers with unilateral amblyopia appear to show deficits for local spatial processing and global tasks that require the segregation of signal from noise. In bilateral cases, the global processing deficits are exaggerated, and appear to extend to specialized perceptual systems such as those involved in face processing.
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    • "Neurophysiological studies conducted in mammals have shown that multisensory neurons and the ability to integrate crossmodal information require an extensive time of sensory experience during early development in order to fully mature [1], [2]. This predicts that sensory deprivation may impair multisensory processing, as has been extensively documented in visually deprived animals [3], [4] and in blind humans too [5], [8]. In particular, [5] have suggested that there may be a sensitive period for the development of multisensory integration, after which – if adequate experience has not been made - multisensory processing will remain impaired. "
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    • "About half of these 28 generate nuclear cataract which requires as early a clinical intervention as possible. Congenital bilateral nuclear opacity, which appears to be the most common autosomal dominant inherited form of cataracts [14], blocks the central visual axis and causes complications such as nystagmus and developmental amblyopia in the growing infant [15]–[17], and pediatric ophthalmologists need to intervene at the earliest [18], [19]. On the other hand, cortical and other types of peripheral cataracts do not demand early action, since they do not block the visual axis. "
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