In the absence of visual input, the question arises as to how complex spatial abilities develop and how the brain adapts to the absence of this modality. As such, the aim of the current study was to investigate the relationship between visual status and an important brain structure with a well established role in spatial cognition and navigation, the caudate nucleus. We conducted a volumetric analysis of the caudate nucleus in congenitally and late blind individuals, as well as in matched sighted control subjects.
No differences in the volume of the structure were found either between congenitally blind (CB) and matched sighted controls or between late blind (LB) and matched sighted controls. Moreover, contrary to what was expected, no significant correlation was found between caudate volume and performance in a spatial navigation task. Finally, consistent with previously published reports, the volume of the caudate nucleus was found to be negatively correlated with age in the sighted; however such correlations were not significant in the blind groups.
Although there were no group differences, the absence of an age-volume correlation in the blind suggests that visual deprivation may still have an effect on the developmental changes that occur in the caudate nucleus.
Keywords: Blindness; Caudate nucleus; Spatial navigation; Volumetric MRI