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Crossmodal recruitment of the ventral visual stream in congenital blindness

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We used functional MRI (fMRI) to test the hypothesis that blind subjects recruit the ventral visual stream during nonhaptic tactile-form recognition. Congenitally blind and blindfolded sighted control subjects were scanned after they had been trained during four consecutive days to perform a tactile-form recognition task with the tongue display unit (TDU). Both groups learned the task at the same rate. In line with our hypothesis, the fMRI data showed that during nonhaptic shape recognition, blind subjects activated large portions of the ventral visual stream, including the cuneus, precuneus, inferotemporal (IT), cortex, lateral occipital tactile vision area (LOtv), and fusiform gyrus. Control subjects activated area LOtv and precuneus but not cuneus, IT and fusiform gyrus. These results indicate that congenitally blind subjects recruit key regions in the ventral visual pathway during nonhaptic tactile shape discrimination. The activation of LOtv by nonhaptic tactile shape processing in blind and sighted subjects adds further support to the notion that this area subserves an abstract or supramodal representation of shape. Together with our previous findings, our data suggest that the segregation of the efferent projections of the primary visual cortex into a dorsal and ventral visual stream is preserved in individuals blind from birth.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftNeural Plasticity
Vol/bind2012
Sider (fra-til)304045
ISSN2090-5904
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 2012

ID: 48874585