EEG frequency-tagging demonstrates increased left hemispheric involvement and crossmodal plasticity for face processing in congenitally deaf signers

Neuroimage. 2020 Dec:223:117315. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117315. Epub 2020 Aug 31.


In humans, face-processing relies on a network of brain regions predominantly in the right occipito-temporal cortex. We tested congenitally deaf (CD) signers and matched hearing controls (HC) to investigate the experience dependence of the cortical organization of face processing. Specifically, we used EEG frequency-tagging to evaluate: (1) Face-Object Categorization, (2) Emotional Facial-Expression Discrimination and (3) Individual Face Discrimination. The EEG was recorded to visual stimuli presented at a rate of 6 Hz, with oddball stimuli at a rate of 1.2 Hz. In all three experiments and in both groups, significant face discriminative responses were found. Face-Object categorization was associated to a relative increased involvement of the left hemisphere in CD individuals compared to HC individuals. A similar trend was observed for Emotional Facial-Expression discrimination but not for Individual Face Discrimination. Source reconstruction suggested a greater activation of the auditory cortices in the CD group for Individual Face Discrimination. These findings suggest that the experience dependence of the relative contribution of the two hemispheres as well as crossmodal plasticity vary with different aspects of face processing.

Keywords: Auditory deprivation; Face-processing; Frequency-tagging; Neural plasticity; Sign Language.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Waves
  • Deafness / congenital
  • Deafness / physiopathology*
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Facial Expression
  • Facial Recognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Sign Language
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Young Adult