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MEDICC Review  2012 

Cross-modal plasticity in cuban visually-impaired child cochlear implant candidates: topography of somatosensory evoked potentials

DOI: 10.1590/S1555-79602012000200007

Keywords: somatosensory evoked potentials, deaf-blind, hearing and vision loss, sensorineural hearing loss, cochlear implants, neuroplasticity, neuroimaging, neurophysiology, fmri, functional magnetic resonance imaging, positron-emission tomography, pet scan, cuba.

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introduction: studies of neuroplasticity have shown that the brain's neural networks change in the absence of sensory input such as hearing or vision. however, little is known about what happens when both sensory modalities are lost (deaf-blindness). hence, this study of cortical reorganization in visually-impaired child cochlear implant (ci) candidates. objective: assess cross-modal plasticity, specifically cortical reorganization for tactile representation in visually-impaired child ci candidates, through study of topography of somatosensory evoked potentials (sep). methods: from april through september 2005, sep from median and tibial nerve electrical stimulation were studied in 12 visually-impaired child ci candidates aged 3-15 years and 23 healthy controls. following placement of 19 recording electrodes using the international 10-20 system , sep were recorded and then processed. topographic maps were obtained for sep n20 (median nerve) and sep p40 (tibial nerve), permitting assessment of cortical reorganization by comparing visually-impaired, deaf children's maps with those of healthy children by means of visual inspection and statistical comparison using a permutation test. results: sep n20 topography was significantly more extensive in visually-impaired child ci candidates than in healthy children. an asymmetrical pattern occurred from the expansion of hand tactile activation into the temporal and occipital regions in the left hemisphere on right median nerve stimulation. this did not occur for sep p40 on tibial nerve stimulation (right and left). magnitude of expanded sep n20 response was related to severity of visual impairment and longer duration of dual sensory loss. conclusions: changes in sep n20 topography are evidence of cross-modal plasticity in visually-impaired child ci candidates, appearing to result from a complex interaction between severity of visual impairment and duration of multisensory deprivation.


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