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Characterizing the Occipital Oscillatory Activity in Blindness (COcOAB)
Start date: Apr 1, 2016, End date: Mar 31, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The massive reorganization of the occipital regions as a consequence of lack of vision represents one of the most remarkable examples of the plastic potentialities of the human brain. Despite the large amount of neuroimaging evidence proving the involvement of occipital areas of blind individuals in non‐visual input processing, the functional role of this sensory reorganized region is still matter of intense debate. In COcOAB, we will use an underexploited neuroimaging technique in this field, magnetoencephalography (MEG), in order to study the oscillatory profile of ensembles of occipital neurons and their brain‐wide functional interaction patterns in blind individuals. This will allow us to gather unprecedented information about the functional relevance of non‐visual activity in the occipital cortex of blind individuals. Moreover, COcOAB will assess the impact of age onset and duration of visual deprivation on the occipital oscillatory activity, thus providing insights into the relationship between blindness and sensitive periods of maturation in the visual system. The groundbreaking potentials of COcOAB reside in the application of the MEG technique to the study of two experimental domains — sensory illusions and stimulation at threshold — that has been so far neglected in the field of sensory deprivation. COcOAB represents a unique testing ground to address how specific regions support perception in a mechanistic fashion in visually deprived individuals, thus challenging the current knowledge on the functionality of these reorganized regions via a highly innovative approach.

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