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Can J Exp Psychol. 2007 Sep;61(3):254-64.

Journeying beyond classical somatosensory cortex.

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Department of Neurology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Visual cortical areas are involved in a variety of somatosensory tasks in the sighted, including tactile perception of two-dimensional patterns and motion, and haptic perception of three-dimensional objects. It is still unresolved whether visual imagery or modality-independent representations can better explain such cross-modal recruitment. However, these explanations are not necessarily in conflict with each other and might both be true, if imagery processes can access modality-independent representations. Greater visual cortical engagement in blind compared to sighted people is commonplace during language tasks, and also seems to occur during processing of tactile spatial information. Such engagement is even greater in the congenitally blind compared to the late blind, indicative of enhanced cross-modal plasticity during early development. At the other extreme, short-term visual deprivation of the normally sighted also leads to cross-modal plasticity. Altogether, the boundaries between sensory modalities appear to be flexible rather than immutable.

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