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Visual stimuli activate auditory cortex in the deaf


Previous brain imaging studies have demonstrated responses to tactile and auditory stimuli in visual cortex of blind subjects, suggesting that removal of one sensory modality leads to neural reorganization of the remaining modalities1,2,3. To investigate whether similar 'cross-modal' plasticity occurs in human auditory cortex, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure visually evoked activity in auditory areas of both early-deafened and hearing individuals. Here we find that deaf subjects exhibit activation in a region of the right auditory cortex, corresponding to Brodmann's areas 42 and 22, as well as in area 41 (primary auditory cortex), demonstrating that early deafness results in the processing of visual stimuli in auditory cortex.

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Figure 1: Visual stimuli activate auditory cortex in the deaf.
Figure 2: Mean activation in deaf versus hearing subjects to visual stimuli.


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Supported by an NSF grant to K.R.D. and an NRSA grant to E.M.F. We thank G. Boynton and M. Sereno for helpful discussions, G. Brown, L. Eyler Zorrilla, P. Goldin and S. Tapert for assistance with data analysis, and D. Cai for assistance with subject recruitment.

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Correspondence to Karen R. Dobkins.

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Finney, E., Fine, I. & Dobkins, K. Visual stimuli activate auditory cortex in the deaf. Nat Neurosci 4, 1171–1173 (2001).

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