Orienting auditory spatial attention engages frontal eye fields and medial occipital cortex in congenitally blind humans

Arun Garg, Daniel Schwartz, Alexander A. Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


What happens in vision-related cortical areas when congenitally blind (CB) individuals orient attention to spatial locations? Previous neuroimaging of sighted individuals has found overlapping activation in a network of frontoparietal areas including frontal eye fields (FEF), during both overt (with eye movement) and covert (without eye movement) shifts of spatial attention. Since voluntary eye movement planning seems irrelevant in CB, their FEF neurons should be recruited for alternative functions if their attentional role in sighted individuals is only due to eye movement planning. Recent neuroimaging of the blind has also reported activation in medial occipital areas, normally associated with visual processing, during a diverse set of non-visual tasks, but their response to attentional shifts remains poorly understood. Here, we used event-related fMRI to explore FEF and medial occipital areas in CB individuals and sighted controls with eyes closed (SC) performing a covert attention orienting task with endogenous verbal cues and spatialized auditory targets. We found robust stimulus-locked FEF activation of all CB subjects, similar to and stronger than in SC, suggesting that FEF plays a role in endogenous orienting of covert spatial attention even in individuals in whom voluntary eye movements are irrelevant. We also found robust activation in bilateral medial occipital cortex in CB but not in SC subjects. The response decreased below baseline following endogenous verbal cues but increased following auditory targets, suggesting that the medial occipital area in CB does not directly engage during cued orienting of attention but may be recruited for processing of spatialized auditory targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2307-2321
Number of pages15
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2007


  • Covert
  • Cue
  • Endogenous
  • Plasticity
  • Reorganization
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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