Reorganization of neural systems mediating peripheral visual selective attention in the deaf: An optical imaging study

Jenessa L. Seymour, Kathy A. Low, Edward L. Maclin, Antonio M. Chiarelli, Kyle E. Mathewson, Monica Fabiani, Gabriele Gratton, Matthew W.G. Dye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Theories of brain plasticity propose that, in the absence of input from the preferred sensory modality, some specialized brain areas may be recruited when processing information from other modalities, which may result in improved performance. The Useful Field of View task has previously been used to demonstrate that early deafness positively impacts peripheral visual attention. The current study sought to determine the neural changes associated with those deafness-related enhancements in visual performance. Based on previous findings, we hypothesized that recruitment of posterior portions of Brodmann area 22, a brain region most commonly associated with auditory processing, would be correlated with peripheral selective attention as measured using the Useful Field of View task. We report data from severe to profoundly deaf adults and normal-hearing controls who performed the Useful Field of View task while cortical activity was recorded using the event-related optical signal. Behavioral performance, obtained in a separate session, showed that deaf subjects had lower thresholds (i.e., better performance) on the Useful Field of View task. The event-related optical data indicated greater activity for the deaf adults than for the normal-hearing controls during the task in the posterior portion of Brodmann area 22 in the right hemisphere. Furthermore, the behavioral thresholds correlated significantly with this neural activity. This work provides further support for the hypothesis that cross-modal plasticity in deaf individuals appears in higher-order auditory cortices, whereas no similar evidence was obtained for primary auditory areas. It is also the only neuroimaging study to date that has linked deaf-related changes in the right temporal lobe to visual task performance outside of the imaging environment. The event-related optical signal is a valuable technique for studying cross-modal plasticity in deaf humans. The non-invasive and relatively quiet characteristics of this technique have great potential utility in research with clinical populations such as deaf children and adults who have received cochlear or auditory brainstem implants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162-175
Number of pages14
JournalHearing Research
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Brodmann area 22
  • Deafness
  • Event-related optical signal
  • Optical imaging
  • Useful field of view
  • Visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems


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