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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 304045, 9 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/304045
Research Article

Crossmodal Recruitment of the Ventral Visual Stream in Congenital Blindness

1École d’Optométrie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada H3T 1P1
2Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Panum Institute, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 3B, 2200 Copenhagen, Denmark
3Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, Copenhagen University Hospital Hvidovre, 2650 Hvidovre, Denmark
4Department of Radiology, Beijing Hospital, 100054 Beijing, China
5Neurobiology Research Unit, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark

Received 22 January 2012; Accepted 19 April 2012

Academic Editor: Pietro Pietrini

Copyright © 2012 Maurice Ptito et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

We used functional MRI (fMRI) to test the hypothesis that blind subjects recruit the ventral visual stream during nonhaptic tactile-form recognition. Congenitally blind and blindfolded sighted control subjects were scanned after they had been trained during four consecutive days to perform a tactile-form recognition task with the tongue display unit (TDU). Both groups learned the task at the same rate. In line with our hypothesis, the fMRI data showed that during nonhaptic shape recognition, blind subjects activated large portions of the ventral visual stream, including the cuneus, precuneus, inferotemporal (IT), cortex, lateral occipital tactile vision area (LOtv), and fusiform gyrus. Control subjects activated area LOtv and precuneus but not cuneus, IT and fusiform gyrus. These results indicate that congenitally blind subjects recruit key regions in the ventral visual pathway during nonhaptic tactile shape discrimination. The activation of LOtv by nonhaptic tactile shape processing in blind and sighted subjects adds further support to the notion that this area subserves an abstract or supramodal representation of shape. Together with our previous findings, our data suggest that the segregation of the efferent projections of the primary visual cortex into a dorsal and ventral visual stream is preserved in individuals blind from birth.