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Psychol Sci. 2009 Dec;20(12):1484-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02471.x. Epub 2009 Nov 2.

Visual parsing after recovery from blindness.

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  • 1Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


How the visual system comes to bind diverse image regions into whole objects is not well understood. We recently had a unique opportunity to investigate this issue when we met three congenitally blind individuals in India. After providing them treatment, we studied the early stages of their visual skills. We found that prominent figural cues of grouping, such as good continuation and junction structure, were largely ineffective for image parsing. By contrast, motion cues were of profound significance in that they enabled intraobject integration and facilitated the development of object representations that permitted recognition in static images. Following 10 to 18 months of visual experience, the individuals' performance improved, and they were able to use the previously ineffective static figural cues to correctly parse many static scenes. These results suggest that motion information plays a fundamental role in organizing early visual experience and that parsing skills can be acquired even late in life.

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