Properties of cross-modal occipital responses in early blindness: An ALE meta-analysis

Neuroimage Clin. 2019:24:102041. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2019.102041. Epub 2019 Oct 18.


Cross-modal occipital responses appear to be essential for nonvisual processing in individuals with early blindness. However, it is not clear whether the recruitment of occipital regions depends on functional domain or sensory modality. The current study utilized a coordinate-based meta-analysis to identify the distinct brain regions involved in the functional domains of object, spatial/motion, and language processing and the common brain regions involved in both auditory and tactile modalities in individuals with early blindness. Following the PRISMA guidelines, a total of 55 studies were included in the meta-analysis. The specific analyses revealed the brain regions that are consistently recruited for each function, such as the dorsal fronto-parietal network for spatial function and ventral occipito-temporal network for object function. This is consistent with the literature, suggesting that the two visual streams are preserved in early blind individuals. The contrast analyses found specific activations in the left cuneus and lingual gyrus for language function. This finding is novel and suggests a reverse hierarchical organization of the visual cortex for early blind individuals. The conjunction analyses found common activations in the right middle temporal gyrus, right precuneus and a left parieto-occipital region. Clinically, this work contributes to visual rehabilitation in early blind individuals by revealing the function-dependent and sensory-independent networks during nonvisual processing.

Keywords: Activation likelihood estimation; Blindness; Cross-modal plasticity; Meta-analysis; Neuroimaging.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Blindness / diagnostic imaging*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Multimodal Imaging / methods*
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Occipital Lobe / diagnostic imaging*