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Full Access Crossmodal cortical plasticity in the developing brain following sensory loss

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Crossmodal cortical plasticity in the developing brain following sensory loss

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image of Multisensory Research
For more content, see Seeing and Perceiving and Spatial Vision.

Studies of deaf or blind subjects often report enhanced perceptual abilities in the remaining senses. Compared to hearing subjects, psychophysical studies have revealed specific superior visual abilities in the early-deaf as well as enhanced auditory functions in the early-blind. The neural substrate for these superior sensory abilities has been hypothesized to reside in the deprived cerebral cortices that have been reorganized by the remaining sensory modalities through crossmodal plasticity. In this context, it has been proposed that auditory cortex of the deaf may be recruited to perform visual functions. However, a causal link between supranormal visual performance and the visual activity in the reorganized auditory cortex has never been demonstrated. Furthermore, if auditory cortex does mediate the enhanced visual abilities of the deaf, it is unknown if these functions are distributed uniformly across deaf auditory cortex, or if specific functions can be differentially localized to distinct portions of the affected cortices. These fundamental questions are of significant clinical importance now that restoration of hearing in prelingual deaf children is possible through cochlear prosthetics. Psychophysical, neuroanatomical, electrophysiological, and functional imaging studies will be described that demonstrate crossmodal plasticity in auditory cortex underlies the enhanced visual abilities of the early deaf.

Affiliations: 1: Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada

Studies of deaf or blind subjects often report enhanced perceptual abilities in the remaining senses. Compared to hearing subjects, psychophysical studies have revealed specific superior visual abilities in the early-deaf as well as enhanced auditory functions in the early-blind. The neural substrate for these superior sensory abilities has been hypothesized to reside in the deprived cerebral cortices that have been reorganized by the remaining sensory modalities through crossmodal plasticity. In this context, it has been proposed that auditory cortex of the deaf may be recruited to perform visual functions. However, a causal link between supranormal visual performance and the visual activity in the reorganized auditory cortex has never been demonstrated. Furthermore, if auditory cortex does mediate the enhanced visual abilities of the deaf, it is unknown if these functions are distributed uniformly across deaf auditory cortex, or if specific functions can be differentially localized to distinct portions of the affected cortices. These fundamental questions are of significant clinical importance now that restoration of hearing in prelingual deaf children is possible through cochlear prosthetics. Psychophysical, neuroanatomical, electrophysiological, and functional imaging studies will be described that demonstrate crossmodal plasticity in auditory cortex underlies the enhanced visual abilities of the early deaf.

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/content/journals/10.1163/22134808-000s0020
2013-05-16
2016-12-08

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