September 2019
Volume 19, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2019
Strong face selectivity in the fusiform can develop in the absence of visual experience
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • N Apurva Ratan Murty
    McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Centre for Brains, Minds and Machines, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Santani Teng
    Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), MIT
    Smith-Ket-tlewell Eye Research Institute
  • David Beeler
    McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Anna Mynick
    McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Aude Oliva
    Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), MIT
  • Nancy Kanwisher
    McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Centre for Brains, Minds and Machines, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Journal of Vision September 2019, Vol.19, 54a. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.54a
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      N Apurva Ratan Murty, Santani Teng, David Beeler, Anna Mynick, Aude Oliva, Nancy Kanwisher; Strong face selectivity in the fusiform can develop in the absence of visual experience. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):54a. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.54a.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

How does the FFA arise in development, and why does it develop so systematically in the same location across individuals? Preferential fMRI responses to faces arise early, by around 6 months of age in humans (Deen et al., 2017). Arcaro et al (2017) have further shown that monkeys reared without ever seeing a face show no face-selective patches, and regions that later become face selective are correlated in resting fMRI with foveal retinotopic cortex in newborn monkeys. These findings have been taken to argue that 1) seeing faces is necessary for the development of face-selective patches and 2) face patches arise in previously fovea-biased cortex because early experience with faces is foveally biased. Here we present evidence against both these claims. We scanned congenitally blind subjects (N = 6) with fMRI while they performed a one-back haptic shape discrimination task, sequentially palpating 3D-printed photorealistic models of faces, hands, mazes and chairs in a blocked design. Five out of six participants showed significantly higher responses to faces than other categories in the lateral fusiform gyrus (see Figure 1 A,B). Overall, the face selectivity of fusiform regions for tactile faces in congenitally blind participants was comparable to the face selectivity in sighted subjects (N = 8) for videos of the same stimuli rotating in depth (see Figure1 C,D). Evidently, the development of strongly face-selective responses in the lateral fusiform gyrus does not require a) seeing faces, b) foveating faces, or c) perceptual expertise with faces. We speculate that face selectivity in congenitally blind participants reflects either amodal representations of shape and/or the interpretation of faces as social stimuli (Van den Hurk et al, 2017;Powell et al., 2018).

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