Occipital Cortex of Blind Individuals Is Functionally Coupled with Executive Control Areas of Frontal Cortex

TitleOccipital Cortex of Blind Individuals Is Functionally Coupled with Executive Control Areas of Frontal Cortex
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsDeen, B., Saxe R., & Bedny M.
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Volume27
Issue8
Pagination1633 - 1647
Date Published08/2015
ISSN0898-929X
Abstract

In congenital blindness, the occipital cortex responds to a range of nonvisual inputs, including tactile, auditory, and linguistic stimuli. Are these changes in functional responses to stimuli accompanied by altered interactions with nonvisual functional networks? To answer this question, we introduce a data-driven method that searches across cortex for functional connectivity differences across groups. Replicating prior work, we find increased fronto-occipital functional connectivity in congenitally blind relative to blindfolded sighted participants. We demonstrate that this heightened connectivity extends over most of occipital cortex but is specific to a subset of regions in the inferior, dorsal, and medial frontal lobe. To assess the functional profile of these frontal areas, we used an n-back working memory task and a sentence comprehension task. We find that, among prefrontal areas with overconnectivity to occipital cortex, one left inferior frontal region responds to language over music. By contrast, the majority of these regions responded to working memory load but not language. These results suggest that in blindness occipital cortex interacts more with working memory systems and raise new questions about the function and mechanism of occipital plasticity.

URLhttp://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/10.1162/jocn_a_00807
DOI10.1162/jocn_a_00807
Short TitleJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience

Download: