Social cognition skills are typically acquired on the basis of visual information (e.g., the observation of gaze, facial expressions, gestures). In light of this, a critical issue is whether and how the lack of visual experience affects neurocognitive mechanisms underlying social skills. This issue has been largely neglected in the literature on blindness, despite difficulties in social interactions may be particular salient in the life of blind individuals (especially children). Here we provide a meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies reporting brain activations associated to the representation of self and others’ in early blind individuals and in sighted controls. Our results indicate that early blindness does not critically impact on the development of the “social brain,” with social tasks performed on the basis of auditory or tactile information driving consistent activations in nodes of the action observation network, typically active during actual observation of others in sighted individuals. Interestingly though, activations along this network appeared more left-lateralized in the blind than in sighted participants. These results may have important implications for the development of specific training programs to improve social skills in blind children and young adults.
© 2020 The Authors. Human Brain Mapping published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.