Comparing early- and late-onset blindness in individuals offers a unique model for studying the influence of visual experience on neural processing. This study investigated how prior visual experience would modulate auditory spatial processing among blind individuals. BOLD responses of early- and late-onset blind participants were captured while performing a sound localization task. The task required participants to listen to novel “Bat-ears” sounds, analyze the spatial information embedded in the sounds, and specify out of 15 locations where the sound would have been emitted. In addition to sound localization, participants were assessed on visuospatial working memory and general intellectual abilities. The results revealed common increases in BOLD responses in the middle occipital gyrus, superior frontal gyrus, precuneus, and precentral gyrus during sound localization for both groups. Between-group dissociations, however, were found in the right middle occipital gyrus and left superior frontal gyrus. The BOLD responses in the left superior frontal gyrus were significantly correlated with accuracy on sound localization and visuospatial working memory abilities among the late-onset blind participants. In contrast, the accuracy on sound localization only correlated with BOLD responses in the right middle occipital gyrus among the early-onset counterpart. The findings support the notion that early-onset blind individuals rely more on the occipital areas as a result of cross-modal plasticity for auditory spatial processing, while late-onset blind individuals rely more on the prefrontal areas which subserve visuospatial working memory. Copyright © 2013 The Author(s).
CitationTao, Q., Chan, C. C. H., Luo, Y.-J., Li, J.-J., Ting, K.-H., Wang, J., & Lee, T. M. C. (2015). How does experience modulate auditory spatial processing in individuals with blindness? Brain Topography, 28, 506-519. doi: 10.1007/s10548-013-0339-1
- Cross-modal plasticity
- Sound localization
- Superior frontal gyrus
- Middle occipital gyrus