Reorganization of sound location processing in the auditory cortex of blind humans

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Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalCerebral Cortex
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Sep 2019

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