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Cortical cross-modal plasticity following deafness measured using functional near-infrared spectroscopy

Hartley, Douglas E.H.; Dewey, Rebecca S.



Evidence from functional neuroimaging studies suggests that the auditory cortex can become more responsive to visual and somatosensory stimulation following deafness, and that this occurs predominately in the right hemisphere. Extensive cross-modal plasticity in prospective cochlear implant recipients is correlated with poor speech outcomes following implantation, highlighting the potential impact of central auditory plasticity on subsequent aural rehabilitation. Conversely, the effects of hearing restoration with a cochlear implant on cortical plasticity are less well understood, since the use of most neuroimaging techniques in CI recipients is either unsafe or problematic due to the electromagnetic artefacts generated by CI stimulation. Additionally, techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) are confounded by acoustic noise produced by the scanner that will be perceived more by hearing than by deaf individuals. Subsequently it is conceivable that auditory responses to acoustic noise produced by the MR scanner may mask auditory cortical responses to non-auditory stimulation, and render inter-group comparisons less significant. Uniquely, functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a silent neuroimaging technique that is non-invasive and completely unaffected by the presence of a CI. Here, we used fNIRS to study temporal-lobe responses to auditory, visual and somatosensory stimuli in thirty profoundly-deaf participants and thirty normally-hearing controls. Compared with silence, acoustic noise stimuli elicited a significant group fNIRS response in the temporal region of normally-hearing individuals, which was not seen in profoundly-deaf participants. Visual motion elicited a larger group response within the right temporal lobe of profoundly-deaf participants, compared with normally-hearing controls. However, bilateral temporal lobe fNIRS activation to somatosensory stimulation was comparable in both groups. Using fNIRS these results confirm that auditory deprivation is associated with cross-modal plasticity of visual inputs to auditory cortex. Although we found no evidence for plasticity of somatosensory inputs, it is possible that our recordings may have included activation of somatosensory cortex that masked any group differences in auditory cortical responses due to the limited spatial resolution associated with fNIRS.


Hartley, D. E., & Dewey, R. S. (2015). Cortical cross-modal plasticity following deafness measured using functional near-infrared spectroscopy. Hearing Research, 325, 55-63.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 17, 2015
Online Publication Date Mar 24, 2015
Publication Date 2015-07
Deposit Date Jun 5, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 9, 2020
Journal Hearing Research
Electronic ISSN 1878-5891
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 325
Pages 55-63
Public URL
Publisher URL
PMID 25819496


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