A positron emission tomographic study of auditory localization in the congenitally blind

Robert Weeks, Barry Horwitz, Ali Aziz-Sultan, Biao Tian, C. Mark Wessinger, Leonardo G. Cohen, Mark Hallett, Josef P. Rauschecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

376 Scopus citations


We have used positron emission tomography (PET) to measure regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in sighted and congenitally blind subjects performing auditory localization tasks. During scanning, the spectral and binaural cues of localized sound were reproduced by a sound system and delivered via headphones. During tasks that required auditory localization both the sighted and blind subjects strongly activated posterior parietal areas. In addition, the blind subjects activated association areas in the right occipital cortex, the foci of which were similar to areas previously identified in visual location and motion detection experiments in sighted subjects. The blind subjects, therefore, demonstrated visual to auditory crossmodal plasticity with auditory localization activating occipital association areas originally intended for dorsal-stream visual processing. To determine the functional connectivity of pre-selected brain regions in primary and non-primary auditory and posterior parietal cortex in the two cohorts, we performed an inter-regional correlation analysis on the rCBF data set. During auditory localization in the blind subjects, rCBF activity in the right posterior parietal cortex was positively correlated with that in the right occipital region, whereas in sighted subjects correlations were generally negative. There were no significant positive occipital correlations in either cohort when reference regions in temporal or left parietal cortex were chosen. This indicates that in congenitally blind subjects the right occipital cortex participates in a functional network for auditory localization and that occipital activity is more likely to arise from connections with posterior parietal cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2664-2672
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2000


  • Blindness
  • Cross-modal plasticity
  • Extrastriate
  • Parietal cortex
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Sound localization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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