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Altered grid-like coding in early blind people


Xu,  Yangwen
Department Psychology (Doeller), MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Sigismondi, F., Xu, Y., Silvestri, M., & Bottini, R. (2023). Altered grid-like coding in early blind people. bioRxiv. doi:10.1101/2023.05.19.541468.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-2F30-9
Spatial navigation in humans relies heavily on vision. However, the impact of early blindness on the brain navigation network and on the hippocampal-entorhinal system supporting cognitive maps, in particular, remains elusive. Here, we tested sighted and early blind individuals in both imagined navigation in fMRI and real-world navigation. During imagined navigation, the Human Navigation Network was reliably activated in both groups, showing resilience to visual deprivation. However, neural geometry analyses highlighted crucial differences between groups. A 60˚ rotational symmetry, characteristic of grid-like coding, emerged in the entorhinal cortex of sighted but not blind people, who instead showed a 4-fold (90˚) symmetry. Moreover, higher parietal cortex activity during navigation in the blind was correlated with the magnitude of 4-fold symmetry and real-word navigation abilities. In sum, early blindness can alter the geometry of entorhinal cognitive maps, possibly as a consequence of higher reliance on parietal egocentric coding during navigation.