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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 May 14;116(20):10081-10086. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1815376116. Epub 2019 Apr 29.

Responses in area hMT+ reflect tuning for both auditory frequency and motion after blindness early in life.

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Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195;
Department of Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV 89557.
Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195.


Previous studies report that human middle temporal complex (hMT+) is sensitive to auditory motion in early-blind individuals. Here, we show that hMT+ also develops selectivity for auditory frequency after early blindness, and that this selectivity is maintained after sight recovery in adulthood. Frequency selectivity was assessed using both moving band-pass and stationary pure-tone stimuli. As expected, within primary auditory cortex, both moving and stationary stimuli successfully elicited frequency-selective responses, organized in a tonotopic map, for all subjects. In early-blind and sight-recovery subjects, we saw evidence for frequency selectivity within hMT+ for the auditory stimulus that contained motion. We did not find frequency-tuned responses within hMT+ when using the stationary stimulus in either early-blind or sight-recovery subjects. We saw no evidence for auditory frequency selectivity in hMT+ in sighted subjects using either stimulus. Thus, after early blindness, hMT+ can exhibit selectivity for auditory frequency. Remarkably, this auditory frequency tuning persists in two adult sight-recovery subjects, showing that, in these subjects, auditory frequency-tuned responses can coexist with visually driven responses in hMT+.


blindness; plasticity; sensory systems; sight recovery; visual cortex

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