September 2021
Volume 21, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2021
The ontogeny of spatial perception in sighted and blind infants
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Monica Gori
    U-VIP, Unit for Visually Impaired People, IIT, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, 16152, Genoa, Italy
  • Claudio Campus
    U-VIP, Unit for Visually Impaired People, IIT, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, 16152, Genoa, Italy
  • Sabrina Signorini
    Centre of Child Neurophthalmology, IRCCS Mondino Foundation, 27100, Pavia, Italy
  • Eleonora Rivara
    Istitute Nursery EdB, 16152, Genova, Italy
  • Andrew Bremner
    School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2SB, UK
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  This research was partially supported by the ERC MYSpace project (European Research Council, under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Grant agreement No. 948349).
Journal of Vision September 2021, Vol.21, 2734. doi:
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      Monica Gori, Claudio Campus, Sabrina Signorini, Eleonora Rivara, Andrew Bremner; The ontogeny of spatial perception in sighted and blind infants. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):2734.

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

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Congenitally blind infants develop in a perceptual environment which not only lacks visual input but is also deprived of the influences of vision on the intact senses such as in crossmodal calibration and the mapping of the senses to external spatial coordinates. Comparing early spatial representations in blind and sighted infants, we elicited manual orienting responses to auditory and tactile stimuli presented on infants’ hands, manipulating arm posture to examine the frames of reference used for localisation. The sighted infants oriented to auditory cues in audiotactile presentations, and used an external spatial code when locating touches (they showed a crossed hands deficit [6]). The blind infants oriented to tactile cues in audiotactile presentations and used an anatomical spatial code for locating touches, notably showing improved tactile localisation than the sighted participants in the crossed hands condition. Both the sighted and the blind infants demonstrated improved localisation when auditory stimuli were presented at the same time and on the same hand as tactile stimuli, but the blind infants showed a weaker multisensory gain. The blind infants’ responses to touches at the expense of auditory cues indicates an impairment of auditory localisation, leading to a spatial bias to anatomical rather than external coordinates. The finding of multisensory gain across blind and sighted infants demonstrates multisensory integration. This shows that spatial localisation can be enhanced in blind infants by providing spatially congruent stimulation across audition and touch, a finding which bears important implications for approaches to early intervention.


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