Relationship Between Cortical Thickness and Functional Activation in the Early Blind.

Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991)

PubMedID: 24518755

Anurova I, Renier LA, De Volder AG, Carlson S, Rauschecker JP. Relationship Between Cortical Thickness and Functional Activation in the Early Blind. Cereb Cortex. 2014;.
Early blindness results in both structural and functional changes of the brain. However, these changes have rarely been studied in relation to each other. We measured alterations in cortical thickness (CT) caused by early visual deprivation and their relationship with cortical activity. Structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging was performed in 12 early blind (EB) humans and 12 sighted controls (SC). Experimental conditions included one-back tasks for auditory localization and pitch identification, and a simple sound-detection task. Structural and functional data were analyzed in a whole-brain approach and within anatomically defined regions of interest in sensory areas of the spared (auditory) and deprived (visual) modalities. Functional activation during sound-localization or pitch-identification tasks correlated negatively with CT in occipital areas of EB (calcarine sulcus, lingual gyrus, superior and middle occipital gyri, and cuneus) and in nonprimary auditory areas of SC. These results suggest a link between CT and activation and demonstrate that the relationship between cortical structure and function may depend on early sensory experience, probably via selective pruning of exuberant connections. Activity-dependent effects of early sensory deprivation and long-term practice are superimposed on normal maturation and aging. Together these processes shape the relationship between brain structure and function over the lifespan.