Early 'visual' cortex activation correlates with superior verbal memory performance in the blind

Amir Amedi*, Noa Raz, Pazit Pianka, Rafael Malach, Ehud Zohary

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

455 Scopus citations


The visual cortex may be more modifiable than previously considered. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in ten congenitally blind human participants, we found robust occipital activation during a verbal-memory task (in the absence of any sensory input), as well as during verb generation and Braille reading. We also found evidence for reorganization and specialization of the occipital cortex, along the anterior-posterior axis. Whereas anterior regions showed preference for Braille, posterior regions (including V1) showed preference for verbal-memory and verb generation (which both require memory of verbal material). No such occipital activation was found in sighted subjects. This difference between the groups was mirrored by superior performance of the blind in various verbal-memory tasks. Moreover, the magnitude of V1 activation during the verbal-memory condition was highly correlated with the blind individual's abilities in a variety of verbal-memory tests, suggesting that the additional occipital activation may have a functional role.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)758-766
Number of pages9
JournalNature Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2003


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