Date Published:2012 Jul
A key question in sensory perception is the role of experience in shaping the functional architecture of the sensory neural systems. Here we studied dependence on visual experience in shaping the most fundamental division of labor in vision, namely between the ventral "what" and the dorsal "where and how" processing streams. We scanned 11 fully congenitally blind (CB) and 9 sighted individuals performing location versus form identification tasks following brief training on a sensory substitution device used for artificial vision. We show that the dorsal/ventral visual pathway division of labor can be revealed in the adult CB when perceiving sounds that convey the relevant visual information. This suggests that the most important large-scale organization of the visual system into the 2 streams can develop even without any visual experience and can be attributed at least partially to innately determined constraints and later to cross-modal plasticity. These results support the view that the brain is organized into task-specific but sensory modality-independent operators.