27 October 2020
Visual input during the first years of life is vital for the development of numerous visual functions. While normal development of global motion perception seems to require visual input during an early sensitive period, the detection of biological motion (BM) does not seem to do so. A more complex form of BM processing is the identification of human actions. Here, we tested whether identification rather than detection of BM is experience dependent. A group of human participants who had been treated for congenital cataracts (CC; of up to 18 years in duration, CC group) had to identify ten actions performed by human line figures. In addition, they performed a coherent motion (CM) detection task, which required identifying the direction of CM amid the movement of random dots. As controls, developmental cataract (DC) reversal individuals (DC group) who had undergone the same surgical treatment as CC group were included. Moreover, normally sighted controls were tested both with vision blurred to match the visual acuity (VA) of CC individuals [vision matched (VM) group] and with full sight [sighted control (SC) group]. The CC group identified biological actions with an extraordinary high accuracy (on average ∼85% correct) and was indistinguishable from the VM control group. By contrast, CM processing impairments of the CC group persisted even after controlling for VA. These results in the same individuals demonstrate an impressive resilience of BM processing to aberrant early visual experience and at the same time a sensitive period for the development of CM processing.