Vibrotactile activation of the auditory cortices in deaf versus hearing adults

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Neuroplastic changes in auditory cortex as a result of lifelong perceptual experience were investigated. Adults with early-onset deafness and long-term hearing aid experience were hypothesized to have undergone auditory cortex plasticity due to somatosensory stimulation. Vibrations were presented on the hand of deaf and normal-hearing participants during functional MRI. Vibration stimuli were derived from speech or were a fixed frequency. Higher, more widespread activity was observed within auditory cortical regions of the deaf participants for both stimulus types. Life-long somatosensory stimulation due to hearing aid use could explain the greater activity observed with deaf participants.

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