July 2013
Volume 13, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   July 2013
Reorganization of auditory motion direction encoding in early blind humans
Author Affiliations
  • Fang Jiang
    Department of Psychology, University of Washington
  • G.C. Stecker
    Speech & Hearing Science, University of Washington
  • Ione Fine
    Department of Psychology, University of Washington
Journal of Vision July 2013, Vol.13, 615. doi:10.1167/13.9.615
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      Fang Jiang, G.C. Stecker, Ione Fine; Reorganization of auditory motion direction encoding in early blind humans. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):615. doi: 10.1167/13.9.615.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Studies showing that occipital cortex responds to auditory and tactile stimuli after early blindness are often interpreted as demonstrating that early blind subjects ‘see’ auditory and tactile stimuli. One such example is that area hMT+ - a region associated with visual motion processing in sighted – responds to auditory and tactile motion stimuli within early blind individuals. However, to claim that blind subjects ‘see’ using occipital cortex requires that occipital responses directly mediate the perception of auditory stimuli, rather than simply modulating or augmenting responses within auditory areas. To identify regions associated with the conscious experience of auditory motion we dissociated neuronal responses associated with the perceptual experience of motion from the physical presence of motion in the display by asking observers to report the perceived direction of an ambiguous stimulus. Both coherent and ambiguous motion stimuli were defined using a combination of inter-aural time differences, inter-aural level differences, and Doppler shift that simulated an auditory stimulus traveling along a fronto-parallel plane. No net motion was applied in the ambiguous motion stimulus. Using fMRI pattern classification, we found that in sighted individuals the perceived direction of motion for both coherent and ambiguous auditory motion stimuli was accurately categorized based on neural responses within auditory cortex (specifically the right planum temporale and lateral occipital cortex). In contrast, within early blind individuals auditory motion decisions were only successfully categorized based on responses within hMT+, and could not be categorized based on responses within either the planum temporale or lateral occipital cortex. This double dissociation demonstrates first that early blind responses to auditory motion within MT+ are associated with the perception of auditory motion, and second that these responses do indeed supplant rather than augment the role of auditory cortex in auditory motion perception. Blind individuals do indeed ‘see’ auditory motion.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013


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