Neural correlates associated with superior tactile symmetry perception in the early blind

Corinna Bauer, Lindsay Yazzolino, Gabriella Hirsch, Zaira Cattaneo, Tomaso Vecchi, Lotfi B. Merabet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Symmetry is an organizational principle that is ubiquitous throughout the visual world. However, this property can also be detected through non-visual modalities such as touch. The role of prior visual experience on detecting tactile patterns containing symmetry remains unclear. We compared the behavioral performance of early blind and sighted (blindfolded) controls on a tactile symmetry detection task. The tactile patterns used were similar in design and complexity as in previous visual perceptual studies. The neural correlates associated with this behavioral task were identified with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In line with growing evidence demonstrating enhanced tactile processing abilities in the blind, we found that early blind individuals showed significantly superior performance in detecting tactile symmetric patterns compared to sighted controls. Furthermore, comparing patterns of activation between these two groups identified common areas of activation (e.g. superior parietal cortex) but key differences also emerged. In particular, tactile symmetry detection in the early blind was also associated with activation that included peri-calcarine cortex, lateral occipital (LO), and middle temporal (MT) cortex, as well as inferior temporal and fusiform cortex. These results contribute to the growing evidence supporting superior behavioral abilities in the blind, and the neural correlates associated with crossmodal neuroplasticity following visual deprivation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-117
Number of pages14
JournalCortex
Volume63
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2015

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Keywords

  • Blind
  • Crossmodal
  • Extrastriate cortex
  • Haptic
  • Lateral occipital cortex
  • Plasticity
  • Striate cortex
  • Symmetry
  • Tactile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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