The visual cortex in the blind but not the auditory cortex in the deaf becomes multiple-demand regions

Duymuş H., Verma M., Güçlütürk Y., Öztürk M., Varol A. B., Kurt Ş., ...More

BRAIN : A JOURNAL OF NEUROLOGY, vol.147, pp.1-43, 2024 (SCI-Expanded) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 147
  • Publication Date: 2024
  • Doi Number: 10.1093/brain/awae187
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, PASCAL, Applied Science & Technology Source, BIOSIS, CINAHL, EMBASE, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, Psycinfo
  • Page Numbers: pp.1-43
  • Ankara University Affiliated: Yes


The fate of deprived sensory cortices – visual regions in the blind and auditory regions in the deaf – exemplifies the extent to which experience can change brain regions. These regions are frequently seen to activate during tasks involving other sensory modalities, leading many accounts to infer that these regions have started processing sensory information of other modalities. However, such observations can also imply that these regions are now activating to any task event regardless of the sensory modality. Activating to task events, irrespective of the sensory modality involved, is a feature of the multiple-demands (MD) network. These are a common set of regions within the frontal and parietal cortices that activate in response to any kind of control demand. Thus, demands as diverse as attention, perceptual difficulty, rule-switching, updating working memory, inhibiting responses, decision-making, and difficult arithmetic – all activate these same set of regions that are thought to instantiate domain-general cognitive control and underpin fluid intelligence. We investigated if deprived sensory cortices, or foci within them, become part of the MD network. We tested if the same foci within the visual regions of the blind and auditory regions of the deaf activated to different control demands. We found that control demands related to updating auditory working memory, difficult tactile decisions, time-duration judgments, and sensorimotor-speed – all activated the entire bilateral occipital regions in the blind but not in the sighted. These occipital regions in the blind were the only regions outside the canonical fronto-parietal MD regions to show such activation to multiple control demands. Further, compared to the sighted, these occipital regions in the blind had higher functional connectivity with fronto-parietal MD regions. Early deaf, in contrast, did not activate their auditory regions to different control demands, showing that auditory regions do not become MD regions in the deaf. We suggest that visual regions in the blind do not take a new sensory role but become part of the MD network, and this is not a response of all deprived sensory cortices but a feature unique to the visual regions.