Visual Experience is not Necessary for the Development of Face Selectivity in the Lateral Fusiform Gyrus
The fusiform face area responds selectively to faces and is causally involved in face perception. How does face-selectivity in the fusiform arise in development, and why does it develop so systematically in the same location across individuals? Preferential cortical responses to faces develop early in infancy, yet evidence is conflicting on the central question of whether visual experience with faces is necessary. Here, we revisit this question by scanning congenitally blind individuals with fMRI while they haptically explored 3D-printed faces and other stimuli. We found robust face-selective responses in the lateral fusiform gyrus of individual blind participants during haptic exploration of stimuli, indicating that neither visual experience with faces nor fovea-biased inputs is necessary for face-selectivity to arise in the lateral fusiform gyrus. Our results instead suggest a role for long-range connectivity in specifying the location of face-selectivity in the human brain.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences