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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53784. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053784. Epub 2013 Jan 7.

The development of visual areas depends differently on visual experience.

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Department of Radiology, Tianjin Medical University General Hospital, Tianjin, China.


Visual experience plays an important role in the development of the visual cortex; however, recent functional imaging studies have shown that the functional organization is preserved in several higher-tier visual areas in congenitally blind subjects, indicating that maturation of visual areas depend unequally on visual experience. In this study, we aim to validate this hypothesis using a multimodality MRI approach. We found increased cortical thickness in the congenitally blind was present in the early visual areas and absent in the higher-tier ones, suggesting that the structural development of the visual cortex depends hierarchically on visual experience. In congenitally blind subjects, the decreased resting-state functional connectivity with the primary somatosensory cortex was more prominent in the early visual areas than in the higher-tier ones and were more pronounced in the ventral stream than in the dorsal one, suggesting that the development of functional organization of the visual cortex also depends differently on visual experience. Moreover, congenitally blind subjects showed normal or increased functional connectivity between ipsilateral higher-tier and early visual areas, suggesting an indirect corticocortical pathway through which somatosenroy information can reach the early visual areas. These findings support our hypothesis that the development of visual areas depends differently on visual experience.

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