Visual cortex activation in late-onset, Braille naive blind individuals: An fMRI study during semantic and phonological tasks with heard words

Harold Burton, Donald G. McLaren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

Visual cortex activity in the blind has been shown in Braille literate people, which raise the question of whether Braille literacy influences cross-modal reorganization. We used fMRI to examine visual cortex activation during semantic and phonological tasks with auditory presentation of words in two late-onset blind individuals who lacked Braille literacy. Multiple visual cortical regions were activated in the Braille naive individuals. Positive BOLD responses were noted in lower tier visuotopic (e.g., V1, V2, VP, and V3) and several higher tier visual areas (e.g., V4v, V8, and BA 37). Activity was more extensive and cross-correlation magnitudes were greater during the semantic compared to the phonological task. These results with Braille naive individuals plausibly suggest that visual deprivation alone induces visual cortex reorganization. Cross-modal reorganization of lower tier visual areas may be recruited by developing skills in attending to selected non-visual inputs (e.g., Braille literacy, enhanced auditory skills). Such learning might strengthen remote connections with multisensory cortical areas. Of necessity, the Braille naive participants must attend to auditory stimulation for language. We hypothesize that learning to attend to non-visual inputs probably strengthens the remaining active synapses following visual deprivation, and thereby, increases cross-modal activation of lower tier visual areas when performing highly demanding non-visual tasks of which reading Braille is just one example.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-42
Number of pages5
JournalNeuroscience Letters
Volume392
Issue number1-2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 9 2006

Keywords

  • Blindness
  • Human
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Physiology
  • Visual cortex/

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