Sight restoration after congenital blindness does not reinstate alpha oscillatory activity in humans

Sci Rep. 2016 Apr 15;6:24683. doi: 10.1038/srep24683.

Abstract

Functional brain development is characterized by sensitive periods during which experience must be available to allow for the full development of neural circuits and associated behavior. Yet, only few neural markers of sensitive period plasticity in humans are known. Here we employed electroencephalographic recordings in a unique sample of twelve humans who had been blind from birth and regained sight through cataract surgery between four months and 16 years of age. Two additional control groups were tested: a group of visually impaired individuals without a history of total congenital blindness and a group of typically sighted individuals. The EEG was recorded while participants performed a visual discrimination task involving intact and scrambled biological motion stimuli. Posterior alpha and theta oscillations were evaluated. The three groups showed indistinguishable behavioral performance and in all groups evoked theta activity varied with biological motion processing. By contrast, alpha oscillatory activity was significantly reduced only in individuals with a history of congenital cataracts. These data document on the one hand brain mechanisms of functional recovery (related to theta oscillations) and on the other hand, for the first time, a sensitive period for the development of alpha oscillatory activity in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blindness / congenital*
  • Blindness / physiopathology
  • Blindness / surgery
  • Child
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Vision, Ocular*
  • Young Adult