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Elife. 2016 Mar 15;5:e10762. doi: 10.7554/eLife.10762.

Massive cortical reorganization in sighted Braille readers.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland.
2
INSERM U 1127, CNRS UMR 7225, Sorbonne Universités, and Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6, UMR S 1127, Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière (ICM), Paris, France.
3
Laboratory of Brain Imaging, Neurobiology Center, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Warsaw, Poland.
4
Academy of Special Education in Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland.
5
Institute for the Blind and Partially Sighted Children in Krakow, Kraków, Poland.
6
Laboratory of Psychophysiology, Department of Neurophysiology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Warsaw, Poland.
7
Department of Experimental Psychology, University College London, London, United Kingdom.
8
The Cognitive Science Program, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.
9
Department of Medical Neurobiology, The Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada, Faculty of Medicine, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.
10
The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.
11
Sorbonne Universite´s, UPMC Univ Paris 06, Institut de la Vision, Paris, France.

Abstract

The brain is capable of large-scale reorganization in blindness or after massive injury. Such reorganization crosses the division into separate sensory cortices (visual, somatosensory...). As its result, the visual cortex of the blind becomes active during tactile Braille reading. Although the possibility of such reorganization in the normal, adult brain has been raised, definitive evidence has been lacking. Here, we demonstrate such extensive reorganization in normal, sighted adults who learned Braille while their brain activity was investigated with fMRI and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Subjects showed enhanced activity for tactile reading in the visual cortex, including the visual word form area (VWFA) that was modulated by their Braille reading speed and strengthened resting-state connectivity between visual and somatosensory cortices. Moreover, TMS disruption of VWFA activity decreased their tactile reading accuracy. Our results indicate that large-scale reorganization is a viable mechanism recruited when learning complex skills.

KEYWORDS:

fMRI; human; neuroscience; somatosensory system; visual system

PMID:
26976813
PMCID:
PMC4805536
DOI:
10.7554/eLife.10762
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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