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Neural correlates of natural human echolocation in early and late blind echolocation experts.

Thaler, Lore and Arnott, Stephen and Goodale, Melvyn (2011) 'Neural correlates of natural human echolocation in early and late blind echolocation experts.', PLoS ONE., 6 (5). e20162.

Abstract

Background: A small number of blind people are adept at echolocating silent objects simply by producing mouth clicks and listening to the returning echoes. Yet the neural architecture underlying this type of aid-free human echolocation has not been investigated. To tackle this question, we recruited echolocation experts, one early- and one late-blind, and measured functional brain activity in each of them while they listened to their own echolocation sounds. Results: When we compared brain activity for sounds that contained both clicks and the returning echoes with brain activity for control sounds that did not contain the echoes, but were otherwise acoustically matched, we found activity in calcarine cortex in both individuals. Importantly, for the same comparison, we did not observe a difference in activity in auditory cortex. In the early-blind, but not the late-blind participant, we also found that the calcarine activity was greater for echoes reflected from surfaces located in contralateral space. Finally, in both individuals, we found activation in middle temporal and nearby cortical regions when they listened to echoes reflected from moving targets. Conclusions These findin:gs suggest that processing of click-echoes recruits brain regions typically devoted to vision rather than audition in both early and late blind echolocation experts.

Item Type:Article
Full text:PDF - Published Version (986Kb)
Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0020162
Publisher statement:Copyright © 2011 Thaler et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Record Created:06 Mar 2012 10:05
Last Modified:26 Feb 2014 09:42

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