Differential effects of eyes open or closed in darkness on brain activation patterns in blind subjects

Neuroscience Letters
K HüfnerT Brandt


In functional brain imaging, specific task conditions can be compared to a reference condition which is often eyes-open or eyes-closed in darkness without the execution of a specific task. Previous fMRI studies in sighted subjects have shown that eyes-open in darkness, without visual stimulation, increases the relative activity in cortical ocular motor and attentional areas ("exteroceptive" state; contrast OPEN>CLOSED). By contrast, eyes-closed causes a relative signal increase in sensory systems ("interoceptive" state; contrast CLOSED>OPEN). In the present study we used fMRI to determine whether these differential brain activity states can also be found in congenitally blind subjects: there were intragroup differences between the OPEN and CLOSED conditions. These differences were, however, less pronounced and occurred in other areas than in sighted controls. The contrast OPEN>CLOSED revealed a relative signal increase in the left frontal eye field, the middle occipital gyrus bilaterally and in the anterior cingulum. Relative signal increases in occipital cortex areas and the anterior cingulum were also apparent for this contrast in the intergroup comparison (congenitally totally blind subjects vs. sighted controls). They refle...Continue Reading


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