Differential activity in Heschl's gyrus between deaf and hearing individuals is due to auditory deprivation rather than language modality

Velia Cardin, Rebecca C. Smittenaar, Eleni Orfanidou, Jerker Rönnberg, Cheryl M. Capek, Mary Rudner, Bencie Woll

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Sensory cortices undergo crossmodal reorganisation as a consequence of sensory deprivation. Congenital deafness in humans represents a particular case with respect to other types of sensory deprivation, because cortical reorganisation is not only a consequence of auditory deprivation, but also of language-driven mechanisms. Visual crossmodal plasticity has been found in secondary auditory cortices of deaf individuals, but it is still unclear if reorganisation also takes place in primary auditory areas, and how this relates to language modality and auditory deprivation. 

Here, we dissociated the effects of language modality and auditory deprivation on crossmodal plasticity in Heschl's gyrus as a whole, and in cytoarchitectonic region Te1.0 (likely to contain the core auditory cortex). Using fMRI, we measured the BOLD response to viewing sign language in congenitally or early deaf individuals with and without sign language knowledge, and in hearing controls. 

Results show that differences between hearing and deaf individuals are due to a reduction in activation caused by visual stimulation in the hearing group, which is more significant in Te1.0 than in Heschl's gyrus as a whole. Furthermore, differences between deaf and hearing groups are due to auditory deprivation, and there is no evidence that the modality of language used by deaf individuals contributes to crossmodal plasticity in Heschl's gyrus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-106
Number of pages11
Issue numberPart A
Early online date5 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Heschl's gyrus
  • Deafness
  • Sign language
  • Speech
  • fMRI

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