Thalamocortical Connectivity and Microstructural Changes in Congenital and Late Blindness

N H Reislev, Tim Bjørn Dyrby, H. R. Siebner, H. Lundell, M Ptito, Ron Kupers

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Abstract

There is ample evidence that the occipital cortex of congenitally blind individuals processes nonvisual information. It remains a debate whether the cross-modal activation of the occipital cortex is mediated through the modulation of preexisting corticocortical projections or the reorganisation of thalamocortical connectivity. Current knowledge on this topic largely stems from anatomical studies in animal models. The aim of this study was to test whether purported changes in thalamocortical connectivity in blindness can be revealed by tractography based on diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging. To assess the thalamocortical network, we used a clustering method based on the thalamic white matter projections towards predefined cortical regions. Five thalamic clusters were obtained in each group representing their cortical projections. Although we did not find differences in the thalamocortical network between congenitally blind individuals, late blind individuals, and normal sighted controls, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) indices revealed significant microstructural changes within thalamic clusters of both blind groups. Furthermore, we find a significant decrease in fractional anisotropy (FA) in occipital and temporal thalamocortical projections in both blind groups that were not captured at the network level. This suggests that plastic microstructural changes have taken place, but not in a degree to be reflected in the tractography-based thalamocortical network.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9807512
JournalNeural Plasticity
Volume2017
Number of pages11
ISSN2090-5904
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • Neurosciences. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
  • RC321-571
  • Journal Article

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