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Hand representation in the blind

In sighted individuals, the hand is represented in multiple sensory systems across the brain, including in the visual system. Research from our group suggests that visual and sensorimotor representations of the hand are overlapping. The challenge is to determine how these multisensory hand representations are formed and to clarify their function.

It has been established that in the brains of congenitally blind individuals, the deprived visual cortex supports enhanced sensory and even cognitive abilities, which help the blind adapt to their disability. We are interested in how touch, which is important for everyday functions for the blind (such as reading Braille), is represented in their sensorimotor and visual cortices.

In collaboration with Holly Bridge, we investigate the organising patterns underlying tactile representation in the visual cortex of the blind. We also study changes in hand representation in the sensorimotor systems relating to changed hand usage in daily life, as driven by blindness.

 

Additional information can be found in:

Watkins, K. E., Shakespeare, T. J., O'Donoghue, M. C., Alexander, I., Ragge, N., Cowey, A., & Bridge, H. (2013). Early auditory processing in area V5/MT+ of the congenitally blind brain. The Journal of Neuroscience33(46), 18242-18246.

Orlov, T., Makin, T. R., & Zohary, E. (2010). Topographic representation of the human body in the occipitotemporal cortex. Neuron68(3), 586-600.

 

Collaborators:

Holly Bridge, FMRIB Centre, University of Oxford

James Kolasinski, FMRIB Centre, University of Oxford