Testing geometry and 3D perception in children following vision restoring cataract-removal surgery

Amber Maimon, Ophir Netzer, Benedetta Heimler, Amir Amedi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

As neuroscience and rehabilitative techniques advance, age-old questions concerning the visual experience of those who gain sight after blindness, once thought to be philosophical alone, take center stage and become the target for scientific inquiries. In this study, we employ a battery of visual perception tasks to study the unique experience of a small group of children who have undergone vision-restoring cataract removal surgery as part of the Himalayan Cataract Project. We tested their abilities to perceive in three dimensions (3D) using a binocular rivalry task and the Brock string task, perceive visual illusions, use cross-modal mappings between touch and vision, and spatially group based on geometric cues. Some of the children in this study gained a sense of sight for the first time in their lives, having been born with bilateral congenital cataracts, while others suffered late-onset blindness in one eye alone. This study simultaneously supports yet raises further questions concerning Hubel and Wiesel’s critical periods theory and provides additional insight into Molyneux’s problem, the ability to correlate vision with touch quickly. We suggest that our findings present a relatively unexplored intermediate stage of 3D vision development. Importantly, we spotlight some essential geometrical perception visual abilities that strengthen the idea that spontaneous geometry intuitions arise independently from visual experience (and education), thus replicating and extending previous studies. We incorporate a new model, not previously explored, of testing children with congenital cataract removal surgeries who perform the task via vision. In contrast, previous work has explored these abilities in the congenitally blind via touch. Taken together, our findings provide insight into the development of what is commonly known as the visual system in the visually deprived and highlight the need to further empirically explore an amodal, task-based interpretation of specializations in the development and structure of the brain. Moreover, we propose a novel objective method, based on a simple binocular rivalry task and the Brock string task, for determining congenital (early) vs. late blindness where medical history and records are partial or lacking (e.g., as is often the case in cataract removal cases).

Original languageEnglish
Article number962817
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Volume16
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Maimon, Netzer, Heimler and Amedi.

Funding

This research was supported by an ERC Consolidator Grant (773121 NovelExperiSense) and a Horizon GuestXR (101017884) grant (both to AA).

FundersFunder number
Horizon GuestXR101017884
European Research Council773121

    Keywords

    • 3D perception
    • cataract removal
    • geometry
    • sensory development
    • sensory perception
    • vision restoration
    • visual development
    • visual perception

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