Mental Imagery Follows Similar Cortical Reorganization as Perception: Intra-Modal and Cross-Modal Plasticity in Congenitally Blind

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Abstract

Cortical plasticity in congenitally blind individuals leads to cross-modal activation of the visual cortex and may lead to superior perceptual processing in the intact sensory domains. Although mental imagery is often defined as a quasi-perceptual experience, it is unknown whether it follows similar cortical reorganization as perception in blind individuals. In this study, we show that auditory versus tactile perception evokes similar intra-modal discriminative patterns in congenitally blind compared with sighted participants. These results indicate that cortical plasticity following visual deprivation does not influence broad intra-modal organization of auditory and tactile perception as measured by our task. Furthermore, not only the blind, but also the sighted participants showed cross-modal discriminative patterns for perception modality in the visual cortex. During mental imagery, both groups showed similar decoding accuracies for imagery modality in the intra-modal primary sensory cortices. However, no cross-modal discriminative information for imagery modality was found in early visual cortex of blind participants, in contrast to the sighted participants. We did find evidence of cross-modal activation of higher visual areas in blind participants, including the representation of specific-imagined auditory features in visual area V4.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbhy151
Pages (from-to)2859-2875
Number of pages17
JournalCerebral Cortex
Volume29
Issue number7
Early online date27 Jul 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

Keywords

  • auditory
  • blindness
  • decoding
  • mental imagery
  • tactile
  • PRIMARY AUDITORY-CORTEX
  • VISUAL-CORTEX
  • OCCIPITAL CORTEX
  • TACTILE ACUITY
  • WORKING-MEMORY
  • FUNCTIONAL-ORGANIZATION
  • SOMATOSENSORY CORTEX
  • SPATIAL LOCALIZATION
  • ANGLE DISCRIMINATION
  • ACTIVATION PATTERNS

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