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Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Aug 5;7:429. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00429. eCollection 2013.

MEG reveals a fast pathway from somatosensory cortex to occipital areas via posterior parietal cortex in a blind subject.

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1
Laboratory for Human Brain Dynamics, AAI Scientific Cultural Services Ltd. Nicosia, Cyprus.

Abstract

Cross-modal activity in visual cortex of blind subjects has been reported during performance of variety of non-visual tasks. A key unanswered question is through which pathways non-visual inputs are funneled to the visual cortex. Here we used tomographic analysis of single trial magnetoencephalography (MEG) data recorded from one congenitally blind and two sighted subjects after stimulation of the left and right median nerves at three intensities: below sensory threshold, above sensory threshold and above motor threshold; the last sufficient to produce thumb twitching. We identified reproducible brain responses in the primary somatosensory (S1) and motor (M1) cortices at around 20 ms post-stimulus, which were very similar in sighted and blind subjects. Time-frequency analysis revealed strong 45-70 Hz activity at latencies of 20-50 ms in S1 and M1, and posterior parietal cortex Brodmann areas (BA) 7 and 40, which compared to lower frequencies, were substantially more pronounced in the blind than the sighted subjects. Critically, at frequencies from α-band up to 100 Hz we found clear, strong, and widespread responses in the visual cortex of the blind subject, which increased with the intensity of the somatosensory stimuli. Time-delayed mutual information (MI) revealed that in blind subject the stimulus information is funneled from the early somatosensory to visual cortex through posterior parietal BA 7 and 40, projecting first to visual areas V5 and V3, and eventually V1. The flow of information through this pathway occurred in stages characterized by convergence of activations into specific cortical regions. In sighted subjects, no linked activity was found that led from the somatosensory to the visual cortex through any of the studied brain regions. These results provide the first evidence from MEG that in blind subjects, tactile information is routed from primary somatosensory to occipital cortex via the posterior parietal cortex.

KEYWORDS:

MEG tomography; brain plasticity; cortico-cortical connections; cross-modal perception; cross-modal plasticity; functional connectivity; time-delayed mutual information

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