Hierarchical and homotopic correlations of spontaneous neural activity within the visual cortex of the sighted and blind

Omar H. Butt, Noah C. Benson, Ritobrato Datta, Geoffrey K. Aguirre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Spontaneous neural activity within visual cortex is synchronized by both monosynaptic, hierarchical connections between visual areas and indirect, network-level activity. We examined the interplay of hierarchical and network connectivity in human visual cortex by measuring the organization of spontaneous neural signals within the visual cortex in total darkness using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Twenty-five blind (14 congenital and 11 postnatal) participants with equally severe vision loss and 22 sighted subjects were studied. An anatomical template based on cortical surface topology was used for all subjects to identify the quarter-field components of visual areas V1-V3, and assign retinotopic organization. Cortical visual areas that represent the same quadrant of the visual field were considered to have a hierarchical relationship, while the spatially separated quarters of the same visual area were considered homotopic. Blindness was found to enhance correlations between hierarchical cortical areas as compared to indirect, homotopic areas at both the level of visual areas (p = 0.000031) and fine, retinotopic scale (p = 0.0024). A specific effect of congenital, but not postnatal, blindness was to further broaden the cortico-cortico connections between hierarchical visual areas (p = 0.0029). This finding is consistent with animal studies that observe a broadening of axonal terminal arborization when the visual cortex is deprived of early input. We therefore find separable roles for vision in developing and maintaining the intrinsic neural activity of visual cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Article number25
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - Feb 10 2015


  • Blindness
  • Functional connectivity mapping
  • Homotopic correlation
  • Resting state fMRI
  • Spontaneous activity


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