Responses in area hMT+ reflect tuning for both auditory frequency and motion after blindness early in life

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 May 14;116(20):10081-10086. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1815376116. Epub 2019 Apr 29.


Previous studies report that human middle temporal complex (hMT+) is sensitive to auditory motion in early-blind individuals. Here, we show that hMT+ also develops selectivity for auditory frequency after early blindness, and that this selectivity is maintained after sight recovery in adulthood. Frequency selectivity was assessed using both moving band-pass and stationary pure-tone stimuli. As expected, within primary auditory cortex, both moving and stationary stimuli successfully elicited frequency-selective responses, organized in a tonotopic map, for all subjects. In early-blind and sight-recovery subjects, we saw evidence for frequency selectivity within hMT+ for the auditory stimulus that contained motion. We did not find frequency-tuned responses within hMT+ when using the stationary stimulus in either early-blind or sight-recovery subjects. We saw no evidence for auditory frequency selectivity in hMT+ in sighted subjects using either stimulus. Thus, after early blindness, hMT+ can exhibit selectivity for auditory frequency. Remarkably, this auditory frequency tuning persists in two adult sight-recovery subjects, showing that, in these subjects, auditory frequency-tuned responses can coexist with visually driven responses in hMT+.

Keywords: blindness; plasticity; sensory systems; sight recovery; visual cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Blindness / physiopathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Occipital Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Occipital Lobe / physiology*