Decoding natural sounds in early “visual” cortex of congenitally blind individuals

Vetter, P., Bola, Ł., Reich, L., Bennett, M., Muckli, L. and Amedi, A. (2020) Decoding natural sounds in early “visual” cortex of congenitally blind individuals. Current Biology, 30(15), 3039-3044.e2. (doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.05.071) (PMID:32559449) (PMCID:PMC7416107)

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Complex natural sounds, such as bird singing, people talking, or traffic noise, induce decodable fMRI activation patterns in early visual cortex of sighted blindfolded participants [1]. That is, early visual cortex receives non-visual and potentially predictive information from audition. However, it is unclear whether the transfer of auditory information to early visual areas is an epiphenomenon of visual imagery or, alternatively, whether it is driven by mechanisms independent from visual experience. Here, we show that we can decode natural sounds from activity patterns in early “visual” areas of congenitally blind individuals who lack visual imagery. Thus, visual imagery is not a prerequisite of auditory feedback to early visual cortex. Furthermore, the spatial pattern of sound decoding accuracy in early visual cortex was remarkably similar in blind and sighted individuals, with an increasing decoding accuracy gradient from foveal to peripheral regions. This suggests that the typical organization by eccentricity of early visual cortex develops for auditory feedback, even in the lifelong absence of vision. The same feedback to early visual cortex might support visual perception in the sighted [1] and drive the recruitment of this area for non-visual functions in blind individuals [2, 3].

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Bennett, Mr Matthew and Muckli, Professor Lars
Authors: Vetter, P., Bola, Ł., Reich, L., Bennett, M., Muckli, L., and Amedi, A.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
Journal Name:Current Biology
Publisher:Elsevier (Cell Press)
ISSN (Online):1879-0445
Published Online:18 June 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 The Authors
First Published:First published in Current Biology 30(15): 3039-3044.e2
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
304518Human Brain Project SGA 2Lars MuckliEuropean Commission (EC)N/ANP - Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging (CCNi)
307180Human Brain Project SGA_3Lars MuckliEuropean Commission (EC)945539NP - Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging (CCNi)