Comparatively exploring the neural navigation network when neuroimaging groups with different levels of vision while navigating virtual mazes with the virtual-EyeCane sensory substitution device

[Speaker] Amedi, Amir:1,2
[Co-author] Maidenbaum, Shachar:1, Chebat, Daniel R:1
1:The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel), 2:Sorbonne Universite´s, Universite´ Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC), Universite´ Paris 06, Institut de la Vision, Unite´ Mixte de Recherche en Sante´ (UMRS) 968 (France)

The neural navigation network has been extensively explored in recent years, highlighted by the 2014 Nobel for the field's foundations. While navigation tasks are not considered sensory-based, as clearly one can navigate without vision, many behavioral differences were reported when comparing navigation with/without vision.
To explore the basis of these differences groups of congenitally-blind, sighted-blindfolded and sighted participants navigated virtual versions of Hebb-Williams mazes during fMRI neuroimaging. To enable non-visual navigation participants used the virtual-EyeCane Sensory-Substitution-Device. Before neuroimaging participants successfully completed these mazes both real-world and virtually.
We found that the core of the recruited network, chiefly parietal nodes and especially the precuneus, were recruited in all groups. Other nodes, including early-visual areas, were recruited by sighted and congenitally-blind, but not by the sighted-blindfolded.
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