We studied whether default functionality of the human brain, as revealed by task-independent decreases in activity occurring during goal-directed behaviors, is functionally reorganized by blindness. Three groups of otherwise normal adults were studied: early blind, adventitiously blind, and normally sighted. They were imaged by using functional MRI during performance of a word association task (verb generation to nouns) administered by using auditory stimuli in all groups and Braille reading in blind participants. In sighted people, this task normally produces robust task-independent decreases relative to a baseline of quiet wakefulness with eyes closed. Our functional MRI results indicate that task-independent decreases are qualitatively similar across all participant groups in medial and dorsal prefrontal, lateral parietal, anterior precuneus, and posterior cingulate cortices. Similarities in task-independent decreases are consistent with the hypothesis that functional reorganization resulting from the absence of a particular sensory modality does not qualitatively affect default functionality as revealed by task-independent decreases. More generally, these results support the notion that the brain largely operates intrinsically, with sensory information modulating rather than determining system operations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15500-15505
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 26 2004


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