Neural substrates of spatial processing and navigation in blindness: An activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis

Maxime Bleau, Samuel Paré, Daniel Robert Chebat, Ron Kupers, Joseph Paul Nemargut, Maurice Ptito

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Even though vision is considered the best suited sensory modality to acquire spatial information, blind individuals can form spatial representations to navigate and orient themselves efficiently in space. Consequently, many studies support the amodality hypothesis of spatial representations since sensory modalities other than vision contribute to the formation of spatial representations, independently of visual experience and imagery. However, given the high variability in abilities and deficits observed in blind populations, a clear consensus about the neural representations of space has yet to be established. To this end, we performed a meta-analysis of the literature on the neural correlates of spatial processing and navigation via sensory modalities other than vision, like touch and audition, in individuals with early and late onset blindness. An activation likelihood estimation (ALE) analysis of the neuroimaging literature revealed that early blind individuals and sighted controls activate the same neural networks in the processing of non-visual spatial information and navigation, including the posterior parietal cortex, frontal eye fields, insula, and the hippocampal complex. Furthermore, blind individuals also recruit primary and associative occipital areas involved in visuo-spatial processing via cross-modal plasticity mechanisms. The scarcity of studies involving late blind individuals did not allow us to establish a clear consensus about the neural substrates of spatial representations in this specific population. In conclusion, the results of our analysis on neuroimaging studies involving early blind individuals support the amodality hypothesis of spatial representations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1010354
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Volume16
DOIs
StatePublished - 20 Oct 2022

Keywords

  • MRI
  • amodality
  • meta-analysis
  • neuroimaging
  • neuroplasticity
  • spatial navigation
  • spatial processing
  • visual impairments and blindness

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