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Visual impairment affects learning ability, speed and accuracy required for reading, writing and learning memory in terms of educational performance. Braille training requires decoding of simple dots into meaningful words and sentences. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the functional connectivity (of memory and language areas based on blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) mapping) and structural changes in early blind (EB) and late blind (LB) participants. A total of 100 participants were recruited in two age groups of 6-12 years (children) and 13-19 years (adolescents), consisting of EB (n=20), LB (n=20) and sighted controls (SC, n=15) in each group. Results showed structural changes in visual cortex and medial temporal area, increased BOLD activations and altered functional connectivity in the primary visual cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus and hippocampus during Braille reading tasks in adolescents as compared with children blind groups. Interestingly, functional results were positively correlated with duration of Braille reading and age at onset in EB and LB groups. Memory and language networks were better in the EB group than the LB group, and in visually impaired children than adolescents. These functional and structural results reveal educational dependent cross-model plasticity in visually impaired participants.


Evaluation of memory and language network in children and adolescents with visual impairment: a combined functional connectivity and voxel-based morphometry study.
Ankeeta A, Saxena R, Kumaran SS, et al.
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Claire Howard

Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, Salford, UK.

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