Reduced adaptability, but no fundamental disruption, of norm-based face coding following early visual deprivation from congenital cataracts
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Faces are adaptively coded relative to visual norms that are updated by experience, and this adaptive coding is linked to face recognition ability. Here we investigated whether adaptive coding of faces is disrupted in individuals (adolescents and adults) who experience face recognition difficulties following visual deprivation from congenital cataracts in infancy. We measured adaptive coding using face identity aftereffects, where smaller aftereffects indicate less adaptive updating of face-coding mechanisms by experience. We also examined whether the aftereffects increase with adaptor identity strength, consistent with norm-based coding of identity, as in typical populations, or whether they show a different pattern indicating some more fundamental disruption of face-coding mechanisms. Cataract-reversal patients showed significantly smaller face identity aftereffects than did controls (Experiments 1 and 2). However, their aftereffects increased significantly with adaptor strength, consistent with norm-based coding (Experiment 2). Thus we found reduced adaptability but no fundamental disruption of norm-based face-coding mechanisms in cataract-reversal patients. Our results suggest that early visual experience is important for the normal development of adaptive face-coding mechanisms.
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