Early visual deprivation affects the development of face recognition and of audio-visual speech perception

Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2010;28(2):251-7. doi: 10.3233/RNN-2010-0526.


Purpose: The investigation of patients treated for bilateral congenital cataracts allows to study the development of visual and multisensory functions after a period of visual deprivation in early infancy. In the present study, cataract patients were tested for their capability to recognize faces and to integrate auditory and visual speech information.

Methods: In Experiment 1, 12 cataract patients were tested with the Benton Facial Recognition Test. In Experiment 2, a McGurk paradigm was used that investigated audio-visual interaction and lip-reading capabilities. Here, fifteen cataract patients participated and were compared to normally sighted controls and to visually impaired controls.

Results: In the Benton Facial Recognition Test, cataract patients' performance was unimpaired when target and test face were identical. By contrast, they performed worse than a normally sighted control group when head orientation and/or lighting conditions of the test faces were changed. In the McGurk paradigm, cataract patients displayed impaired lip-reading abilities and a reduced audio-visual interaction compared to normally sighted controls. The latter deficit prevailed even in a sub-group matched for lip-reading capacities with a normally sighted control sub-group.

Conclusion: These results suggest that visual input in early infancy is a prerequisite for a normal development of visual and multisensory functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cataract / physiopathology
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orientation
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology*
  • Speech Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult