Auditory attention in the congenitally blind: where, when and what gets reorganized?

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Abstract

Functional reorganization of auditory attention was studied in 12 congenitally blind subjects and 12 controls using high-density event-related potentials during a highly focused dichotic listening task. Reaction times for the attend-ear intensity-deviant targets were markedly faster for the blind. Brain activity associated with sustained attention (N1 effect, Nd), and with the automatic detection of deviants in an unattended channel (MMN), did not exhibit reorganization. In contrast, marked plasticity changes were reflected in late auditory attentional processing (attend-ear targets), in the form of a prolonged negativity (200–450 ms post-stimulus) that was absent in the sighted subjects. The plasticity changes in the blind had a time course indicating progressive recruitment of parietal and then occipital regions, providing new evidence for cross-modal sensory reorganization in the blind.

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