Electrophysiological evidence of altered visual processing in adults who experienced visual deprivation during infancy
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We examined the role of early visual input in visual system development by testing adults who had been born with dense bilateral cataracts that blocked all patterned visual input during infancy until the cataractous lenses were removed surgically and the eyes fitted with compensatory contact lenses. Patients viewed checkerboards and textures to explore early processing regions (V1, V2), Glass patterns to examine global form processing (V4), and moving stimuli to explore global motion processing (V5). Patients' ERPs differed from those of controls in that (1) the V1 component was much smaller for all but the simplest stimuli and (2) extrastriate components did not differentiate amongst texture stimuli, Glass patterns, or motion stimuli. The results indicate that early visual deprivation contributes to permanent abnormalities at early and mid levels of visual processing, consistent with enduring behavioral deficits in the ability to process complex textures, global form, and global motion.