EFFECTS OF VISUAL DEPRIVATION ON ACTION VERB REPRESENTATIONS IN THE LATERAL-TEMPORAL- CORTEX: EVIDENCE FROM CONGENITALLY BLIND ADULTS
Bedny, Caramazza, Konkle, Pascual-Leone, & Saxe
How does our sensory experience shape conceptual representations during development? According to one hypothesis, the neuroanatomical organization of concepts is determined by the sensory modalities through which we learn them. For example, the meaning of the word "kick" is represented near visual motion regions activated during the visual observation of kicking. Previous research has found that conceptual and perceptual representations of actions in the lateral-temporal-cortex are distinct but occupy neighboring brain regions. In this project we investigated whether the proximity of verb regions to motion perception regions depends on having learned the meanings of our first verbs through sight. We addressed this issue by considering the neural organization of verbs in congenitally blind individuals. In Experiment 1, participants listened to auditory motion: receding or approaching tones and footsteps. In Experiment 2, participants made relatedness judgments on verb-and noun-pairs. We find that the visual motion percep- tion system is functionally reorganized in congenitally blind adults: motion regions respond to sound in congenitally blind, but not sighted individuals. In contrast, regions that respond to verbs are unaffected by visual deprivation. We conclude that the neuroanatomical organization of event concepts is not deter- mined by the sensory modality of learning. Instead, it is either innately specified or determined by non- sensory aspects of experience.
Bedny, M., Caramazza, A., Konkle, T., Pascual-Leone, A., Saxe, R. (2009). Effects of Visual Deprivation on Action Verb Representation in the Lateral-Temporal-Cortex: Evidence from congenitally blind adults. Talk presented at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, March 21-March 24, San Francisco, CA.