Retinotopically Specific Reorganization of Visual Cortex for Tactile Pattern Recognition

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Abstract

Although previous studies have shown that Braille reading and other tactile discrimination tasks activate the visual cortex of blind and sighted people [1-5], it is not known whether this kind of crossmodal reorganization is influenced by retinotopic organization. We have addressed this question by studying "S," a visually impaired adult with the rare ability to read print visually and Braille by touch. S had normal visual development until 6 years of age, and thereafter severe acuity reduction due to corneal opacification, but no evidence of visual-field loss. Functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed that, in S's early visual areas, tactile information processing activated what would be the foveal representation for normally sighted individuals, and visual information processing activated what would be the peripheral representation. Control experiments showed that this activation pattern was not due to visual imagery. S's high-level visual areas, which correspond to shape- and object-selective areas in normally sighted individuals, were activated by both visual and tactile stimuli. The retinotopically specific reorganization in early visual areas suggests an efficient redistribution of neural resources in the visual cortex. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Cheung, S. H., Fang, F., He, S., & Legge, G. E. (2009). Retinotopically Specific Reorganization of Visual Cortex for Tactile Pattern Recognition. Current Biology, 19(7), 596–601. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2009.02.063

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