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Cereb Cortex. 2019 Sep 4. pii: bhz151. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhz151. [Epub ahead of print]

Reorganization of Sound Location Processing in the Auditory Cortex of Blind Humans.

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Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Maastricht University, 6200 MD Maastricht, the Netherlands.
Maastricht Center for Systems Biology, Maastricht University, 6200 MD Maastricht, the Netherlands.
BRAINlab and Neuropsychiatry Laboratory, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, University of Copenhagen, 2200 Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, Yale University, 300 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.
Department of Computer Science, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK.


Auditory spatial tasks induce functional activation in the occipital-visual-cortex of early blind humans. Less is known about the effects of blindness on auditory spatial processing in the temporal-auditory-cortex. Here, we investigated spatial (azimuth) processing in congenitally and early blind humans with a phase-encoding functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigm. Our results show that functional activation in response to sounds in general-independent of sound location-was stronger in the occipital cortex but reduced in the medial temporal cortex of blind participants in comparison with sighted participants. Additionally, activation patterns for binaural spatial processing were different for sighted and blind participants in planum temporale. Finally, fMRI responses in the auditory cortex of blind individuals carried less information on sound azimuth position than those in sighted individuals, as assessed with a 2-channel, opponent coding model for the cortical representation of sound azimuth. These results indicate that early visual deprivation results in reorganization of binaural spatial processing in the auditory cortex and that blind individuals may rely on alternative mechanisms for processing azimuth position.


auditory cortex; blindness; cortical plasticity; functional magnetic resonance imaging; sound localization


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