Developmental vision determines the reference frame for the multisensory control of action.
Röder B., Kusmierek A., Spence C., Schicke T.
Both animal and human studies suggest that action goals are defined in external coordinates regardless of their sensory modality. The present study used an auditory-manual task to test whether the default use of such an external reference frame is innately determined or instead acquired during development because of the increasing dominance of vision over manual control. In Experiment I, congenitally blind, late blind, and age-matched sighted adults had to press a left or right response key depending on the bandwidth of pink noise bursts presented from either the left or right loudspeaker. Although the spatial location of the sounds was entirely task-irrelevant, all groups responded more efficiently with uncrossed hands when the sound was presented from the same side as the responding hand ("Simon effect"). This effect reversed with crossed hands only in the congenitally blind: They responded faster with the hand that was located contralateral to the sound source. In Experiment II, the instruction to the participants was changed: They now had to respond with the hand located next to the sound source. In contrast to Experiment I ("Simon-task"), this task required an explicit matching of the sound's location with the position of the responding hand. In Experiment II, the congenitally blind participants showed a significantly larger crossing deficit than both the sighted and late blind adults. This pattern of results implies that developmental vision induces the default use of an external coordinate frame for multisensory action control; this facilitates not only visual but also auditory-manual control.