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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.

    Research areas

  • 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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Details

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