Neural correlates of motion processing through echolocation, source hearing, and vision in blind echolocation experts and sighted echolocation novices Academic Article uri icon


  • We have shown in previous research (Thaler L, Arnott SR, Goodale MA. PLoS One 6: e20162, 2011) that motion processing through echolocation activates temporal-occipital cortex in blind echolocation experts. Here we investigated how neural substrates of echo-motion are related to neural substrates of auditory source-motion and visual-motion. Three blind echolocation experts and twelve sighted echolocation novices underwent functional MRI scanning while they listened to binaural recordings of moving or stationary echolocation or auditory source sounds located either in left or right space. Sighted participants' brain activity was also measured while they viewed moving or stationary visual stimuli. For each of the three modalities separately (echo, source, vision), we then identified motion-sensitive areas in temporal-occipital cortex and in the planum temporale. We then used a region of interest (ROI) analysis to investigate cross-modal responses, as well as laterality effects. In both sighted novices and blind experts, we found that temporal-occipital source-motion ROIs did not respond to echo-motion, and echo-motion ROIs did not respond to source-motion. This double-dissociation was absent in planum temporale ROIs. Furthermore, temporal-occipital echo-motion ROIs in blind, but not sighted, participants showed evidence for contralateral motion preference. Temporal-occipital source-motion ROIs did not show evidence for contralateral preference in either blind or sighted participants. Our data suggest a functional segregation of processing of auditory source-motion and echo-motion in human temporal-occipital cortex. Furthermore, the data suggest that the echo-motion response in blind experts may represent a reorganization rather than exaggeration of response observed in sighted novices. There is the possibility that this reorganization involves the recruitment of “visual” cortical areas.


publication date

  • 2014