Visual cortex extrastriate body-selective area activation in congenitally blind people "seeing" by using sounds.

Date Published:

2014 Mar 17


Vision is by far the most prevalent sense for experiencing others' body shapes, postures, actions, and intentions, and its congenital absence may dramatically hamper body-shape representation in the brain. We investigated whether the absence of visual experience and limited exposure to others' body shapes could still lead to body-shape selectivity. We taught congenitally fully-blind adults to perceive full-body shapes conveyed through a sensory-substitution algorithm topographically translating images into soundscapes [1]. Despite the limited experience of the congenitally blind with external body shapes (via touch of close-by bodies and for ~10 hr via soundscapes), once the blind could retrieve body shapes via soundscapes, they robustly activated the visual cortex, specifically the extrastriate body area (EBA; [2]). Furthermore, body selectivity versus textures, objects, and faces in both the blind and sighted control groups was not found in the temporal (auditory) or parietal (somatosensory) cortex but only in the visual EBA. Finally, resting-state data showed that the blind EBA is functionally connected to the temporal cortex temporal-parietal junction/superior temporal sulcus Theory-of-Mind areas [3]. Thus, the EBA preference is present without visual experience and with little exposure to external body-shape information, supporting the view that the brain has a sensory-independent, task-selective supramodal organization rather than a sensory-specific organization.

Full text

Last updated on 12/08/2015