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Boucard, Christine C.; Rauschecker, Josef P.; Neufang, Susanne; Berthele, Achim; Doll, Anselm; Manoliu, Andrej; Riedl, Valentin; Sorg, Christian; Wohlschläger, Afra; Mühlau, Mark (2016): Visual imagery and functional connectivity in blindness: a single-case study. In: Brain Structure & Function, Vol. 221, No. 4: pp. 2367-2374
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Abstract

We present a case report on visual brain plasticity after total blindness acquired in adulthood. SH lost her sight when she was 27. Despite having been totally blind for 43 years, she reported to strongly rely on her vivid visual imagery. Three-Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of SH and age-matched controls was performed. The MRI sequence included anatomical MRI, resting-state functional MRI, and task-related functional MRI where SH was instructed to imagine colours, faces, and motion. Compared to controls, voxel-based analysis revealed white matter loss along SH's visual pathway as well as grey matter atrophy in the calcarine sulci. Yet we demonstrated activation in visual areas, including V1, using functional MRI. Of the four identified visual resting-state networks, none showed alterations in spatial extent;hence, SH's preserved visual imagery seems to be mediated by intrinsic brain networks of normal extent. Time courses of two of these networks showed increased correlation with that of the inferior posterior default mode network, which may reflect adaptive changes supporting SH's strong internal visual representations. Overall, our findings demonstrate that conscious visual experience is possible even after years of absence of extrinsic input.