Altered Resting-State Network Connectivity in Congenital Blind

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Abstract

The brain of congenital blind (CB) has experienced a series of structural and functional alterations, either undesirable outcomes such as atrophy of the visual pathway due to sight loss from birth, or compensatory plasticity to interact efficiently with the environment. However, little is known, so far, about alterations in the functional architecture of resting-state networks (RSNs) in CB. This study aimed to investigate intra- and internetwork connectivity differences between CB and sighted controls (SC), using independent component analysis (ICA) on resting state functional MRI data. Compared with SC, CB showed significantly increased network connectivity within the salience network (SN) and the occipital cortex. Moreover, CB exhibited enhanced internetwork connectivity between the SN and the frontoparietal network (FPN) and between the FPN and the occipital cortex; however, they showed decreased internetwork connectivity between the occipital cortex and the sensorimotor network. These findings suggest that CB experience large scale reorganization at the level of the functional network. More importantly, the enhanced intra- and internetwork connectivity of the SN, FPN, and occipital cortex in CB may improve their abilities to identify salient stimuli, to initiate the executive function, and to top-down control of attention, which are critical for the CB to guide appropriate behavior and to better adaption to the environment. Hum Brain Mapp 35:2573–2581, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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