This article reviews studies demonstrating activity in visual cortex during tactile perception in sighted participants as well as in those who have experienced visual deprivation of varying duration. This field has been very active over the last few years, with the result that a number of exciting findings have emerged, but a unifying framework is still lacking. The first section of this article deals with investigations revealing that visual cortical activity is regularly associated with the neural processing of tactile inputs in normally sighted individuals. Next, the possible reasons underlying such visual cortical recruitment are considered. The focus then shifts to the effects of visual deprivation, examining the involvement of visual cortex in sensory and language processing in the early and late blind. The final section gives an account of studies suggesting that a remarkable degree of plasticity can be observed even after quite short-lasting visual deprivation. Overall, it appears that the nature of visual cortical activity during nonvisual tasks in the sighted can be influenced by late-onset blindness and even by brief interruptions of visual input; however, the relevant neural plasticity seems to considerably more exuberant if vision is lost very early in life or was never present, which suggests that there is a critical period for the maximal expression of such plasticity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Developmental Biology
- Behavioral Neuroscience