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Ella Striem-Amit, Smadar Ovadia-Caro, Ningcong Tong, Xiaoying Wang, Yanchao Bi, Alfonso Caramazza; Visual cortex connectivity variability in congenitally blind individuals. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):159c. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.159c.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Visual cortex organization is highly consistent across individuals, despite being driven by both innate and experience-dependent factors. To what degree does this consistency depend on sensory experience? When the visual cortex partly reorganizes as result of blindness, is the resulting pattern more variable across individuals? We tested this question regarding early (retinotopic) visual cortex functional connectivity patterns in people born blind. Functional connectivity data from people born blind shows large-scale preservation of connectivity patterns within the visual cortex which is consistent across individuals. In contrast to the consistency of the connectivity patterns within the visual cortex, we find inter-subject variability in the plasticity patterns resulting from blindness, for connecting visual and non-visual cortices. Variability is found in these pathways’ connectivity not only in the blind, but also across the sighted individuals. These findings suggest that plasticity may operate at unmasking existing variable connectivity patterns in the absence of visual experience. Furthermore, they suggest that the link of such individual differences and variability to behavioral outcomes using different sensory aids and restoration approaches should be tested.
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