Human navigation relies on a wide range of visual retinotopic cortical regions yet the precise role that these regions play in navigation remains unclear. Are these regions mainly sensory input channels or also modality-independent spatial processing centers? Accordingly, will they be recruited for navigation also without vision, such as via audition? Will visual experience, or the lack thereof, affect this recruitment? Sighted, congenitally blind and sighted-blindfolded participants actively navigated virtual mazes during fMRI scanning before and after navigating them in the real world. Participants used the EyeCane visual-to-auditory navigation aid for non-visual navigation.We found that retinotopic regions, including both dorsal stream regions (e.g. V6) and primary regions (e.g. peripheral V1), were selectively recruited for non-visual navigation only after the participants mastered the EyeCane demonstrating rapid plasticity for non-visual navigation. The hippocampus, considered the navigation network’s core, displayed negative BOLD in all groups.Our results demonstrate the robustness of the retinotopic nodes modality-independent spatial role in non-visual human navigation to lifelong visual-deprivation, demonstrating that visual input during development is not required for their recruitment. Furthermore, our results with the blindfolded group demonstrate this recruitment’s robustness even to brief blindfolding, but only after brief training, demonstrating rapid task based plasticity. These results generalize the wider framework of task-selectivity rather than input-modality as a brain organization principle to dorsal-stream retinotopic areas and even for the first time to the primary visual cortex.HighlightsBoth visual and non-visual navigation recruit retinotopic regionsAfter training blindfolded subjects selectively recruit V1 amp; V6 for navigationThis holds also for participants with no visual experience (congenitally blind)The medial temporal lobe showed non-selective Negative BOLD in all groupsDeclaration of interests All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interests.
|Publisher||Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press|