Visual loss alters multisensory face maps in humans
Topographically organised responses to visual and tactile stimulation are aligned in the ventral intraparietal cortex. The critical biological importance of this region, which is thought to mediate visually guided defensive movements of the head and upper body, suggests that these maps might be hardwired from birth. Here, we investigated whether visual experience is necessary for the creation and positioning of these maps by assessing the representation of tactile stimulation in congenitally and totally blind participants, who had no visual experience, and late and totally blind participants. We used a single-subject approach to the analysis to focus on the potential individual differences in the functional neuroanatomy that might arise from different causes, durations and sensory experiences of visual impairment among participants. The overall results did not show any significant difference between congenitally and late blind participants; however, single-subject trends suggested that visual experience is not necessary to develop topographically organised maps in the intraparietal cortex, whilst losing vision disrupted topographic maps’ integrity and organisation. These results discussed in terms of brain plasticity and sensitive periods.
KeywordsBrain plasticity Intraparietal cortex Blindness Touch fMRI
This work was supported by a Marie Curie IEF (Grant number: PIEF-GA-2010-274163) and a Grant from the EPSRC (EP/J017205/1).
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