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Neuron. 2010 Oct 6;68(1):138-48. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.09.021.

Preserved functional specialization for spatial processing in the middle occipital gyrus of the early blind.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20007, USA.


The occipital cortex (OC) of early-blind humans is activated during various nonvisual perceptual and cognitive tasks, but little is known about its modular organization. Using functional MRI we tested whether processing of auditory versus tactile and spatial versus nonspatial information was dissociated in the OC of the early blind. No modality-specific OC activation was observed. However, the right middle occipital gyrus (MOG) showed a preference for spatial over nonspatial processing of both auditory and tactile stimuli. Furthermore, MOG activity was correlated with accuracy of individual sound localization performance. In sighted controls, most of extrastriate OC, including the MOG, was deactivated during auditory and tactile conditions, but the right MOG was more activated during spatial than nonspatial visual tasks. Thus, although the sensory modalities driving the neurons in the reorganized OC of blind individuals are altered, the functional specialization of extrastriate cortex is retained regardless of visual experience.

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