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Psychol Sci. 2006 Dec;17(12):1009-14.

Vision following extended congenital blindness.

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


Animal studies suggest that early visual deprivation can cause permanent functional blindness. However, few human data on this issue exist. Given enough time for recovery, can a person gain visual skills after several years of congenital blindness? In India, we recently had an unusual opportunity to work with an individual whose case history sheds light on this question. S.R.D. was born blind, and remained so until age 12. She then underwent surgery for the removal of dense congenital cataracts. We evaluated her performance on an extensive battery of visual tasks 20 years after surgery. We found that although S.R.D.'s acuity is compromised, she is proficient on mid- and high-level visual tasks. These results suggest that the human brain retains an impressive capacity for visual learning well into late childhood. They have implications for current conceptions of cortical plasticity and provide an argument for treating congenital blindness even in older children.

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