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Journal Article

Working memory training integrates visual cortex into beta-band networks in congenitally bind individuals


Rimmele,  Johanna Maria
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Rimmele, J. M., Gudi-Mindermann, H., Nolte, G., Roeder, B., & Engel, K. A. (2019). Working memory training integrates visual cortex into beta-band networks in congenitally bind individuals. NeuroImage, 194, 259-271. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.03.003.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-6C57-3
Congenitally blind individuals have been shown to activate the visual cortex during non-visual tasks. The

neuronal mechanisms of such cross-modal activation are not fully understood. Here, we used an auditory working

memory training paradigm in congenitally blind and in sighted adults. We hypothesized that the visual cortex gets

integrated into auditory working memory networks, after these networks have been challenged by training. The

spectral profile of functional networks was investigated which mediate cross-modal reorganization following

visual deprivation. A training induced integration of visual cortex into task-related networks in congenitally blind

individuals was expected to result in changes in long-range functional connectivity in the theta-, beta- and gamma

band (imaginary coherency) between visual cortex and working memory networks. Magnetoencephalographic

data were recorded in congenitally blind and sighted individuals during resting state as well as during a voicebased

working memory task; the task was performed before and after working memory training with either

auditory or tactile stimuli, or a control condition. Auditory working memory training strengthened theta-band

(2.5–5 Hz) connectivity in the sighted and beta-band (17.5–22.5 Hz) connectivity in the blind. In sighted participants,

theta-band connectivity increased between brain areas typically involved in auditory working memory

(inferior frontal, superior temporal, insular cortex). In blind participants, beta-band networks largely emerged

during the training, and connectivity increased between brain areas involved in auditory working memory and as

predicted, the visual cortex. Our findings highlight long-range connectivity as a key mechanism of functional

reorganization following congenital blindness, and provide new insights into the spectral characteristics of

functional network connectivity.