Neural and behavioral correlates of drawing in an early blind painter: a case study


Amedi A, Merabet LB, Camprodon J, Bermpohl F, Fox S, Ronen I, Kim D-S, Pascual-Leone A. Neural and behavioral correlates of drawing in an early blind painter: a case study. Brain Res. 2008;1242 :252-62. Copy at

Date Published:

2008 Nov 25


Humans rely heavily on vision to identify objects in the world and can create mental representations of the objects they encounter. Objects can also be identified and mentally represented through haptic exploration. However, it is unclear whether prior visual experience is necessary to generate these internal representations. Subject EA, an early blind artist, provides insight into this question. Like other blind individuals, EA captures the external world by touch. However, he is also able to reveal his internal representations through highly detailed drawings that are unequivocally understandable by a sighted person. We employed fMRI to investigate the neural correlates associated with EA's ability to transform tactilely explored three-dimensional objects into drawings and contrasted these findings with a series of control conditions (e.g. nonsensical scribbling as a sensory-motor control). Activation during drawing (compared to scribbling) occurred in brain areas normally associated with vision, including the striate cortex along with frontal and parietal cortical regions. Some of these areas showed overlap when EA was asked to mentally imagine the pictures he had to draw (albeit to a lesser anatomical extent and signal magnitude). These results have important implications as regards our understanding of the ways in which tactile information can generate mental representations of shapes and scenes in the absence of normal visual development. Furthermore, these findings suggest the occipital cortex plays a key role in supporting mental representations even without prior visual experience.
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