Movement Induces the Use of External Spatial Coordinates for Tactile Localization in Congenitally Blind Humans

in Multisensory Research
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To localize touch, the brain integrates spatial information coded in anatomically based and external spatial reference frames. Sighted humans, by default, use both reference frames in tactile localization. In contrast, congenitally blind individuals have been reported to rely exclusively on anatomical coordinates, suggesting a crucial role of the visual system for tactile spatial processing. We tested whether the use of external spatial information in touch can, alternatively, be induced by a movement context. Sighted and congenitally blind humans performed a tactile temporal order judgment task that indexes the use of external coordinates for tactile localization, while they executed bimanual arm movements with uncrossed and crossed start and end postures. In the sighted, start posture and planned end posture of the arm movement modulated tactile localization for stimuli presented before and during movement, indicating automatic, external recoding of touch. Contrary to previous findings, tactile localization of congenitally blind participants, too, was affected by external coordinates, though only for stimuli presented before movement start. Furthermore, only the movement’s start posture, but not the planned end posture affected blind individuals’ tactile performance. Thus, integration of external coordinates in touch is established without vision, though more selectively than when vision has developed normally, and possibly restricted to movement contexts. The lack of modulation by the planned posture in congenitally blind participants suggests that external coordinates in this group are not mediated by motor efference copy. Instead the task-related frequent posture changes, that is, movement consequences rather than planning, appear to have induced their use of external coordinates.

Movement Induces the Use of External Spatial Coordinates for Tactile Localization in Congenitally Blind Humans

in Multisensory Research

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References

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Figures

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    Task and trial design. (A) In each trial, participants executed one of four possible movements, from an uncrossed or crossed start posture to an uncrossed or crossed end posture. Responses were given with buttons held in the two hands. (B) Stimulus pairs for the TOJ task were delivered at one of four possible time points, indicated by flashes. White flashes: stimulation before and during movement (Experiment 1, participant Group 1, and Experiment 2). Black flashes: stimulation after movement completion (Experiment 1, participant Group 2). See text for details.

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    Results of Experiment 1: Slopes, movement reaction time, and movement duration. (A) Slopes. For each participant, probabilities of right-first responses were probit transformed and regressed. Each panel shows the average slope across participants for one stimulation time point. (B) Movement reaction time, averaged across participants. (C) Movement duration, averaged across participants. Error bars in all panels indicate the s.e.m. sU: start posture, uncrossed; sC: start posture, crossed; eU: end posture, uncrossed; eC: end posture, crossed. This figure is published in colour in the online version.

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    Results of Experiment 1: Accuracy. Data points are the estimated mean probabilities for each condition’s fixed effect as computed with a generalized linear mixed model (GLMM). Error bars are asymmetric because the GLMM used a logit link function; accordingly, values appear compressed for high and low probability values when back-transformed into the original probability scale. See text for details. This figure is published in colour in the online version.

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    Results for blind and sighted participants of Experiment 2: Slopes, movement reaction time, and movement duration. (A) Slopes. Probabilities of right-first responses were probit transformed and regressed for each participant. Each panel shows the average slope across participants for one stimulation time point. (B) Movement reaction time, averaged across participants. (C) Movement duration, averaged across participant. Error bars in all panels indicate the s.e.m. sU: start posture, uncrossed; sC: start posture, crossed; eU: end posture, uncrossed; eC: end posture, crossed. This figure is published in colour in the online version.

  • View in gallery

    Results for blind and sighted participants of Experiment 2: accuracy. Data points are the estimated mean probabilities for each condition’s fixed effect as computed with a generalized linear mixed model (GLMM). See text for details. This figure is published in colour in the online version.

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