3D Mapping of brain differences in native signing congenitally and prelingually deaf subjects



In the prelingual and congenital deaf, functional reorganization is known to occur throughout brain regions normally associated with hearing. However, the anatomical correlates of these changes are not yet well understood. Here, we perform the first tensor-based morphometric analysis of voxel-wise volumetric differences in native signing prelingual and congenitally deaf subjects when compared with hearing controls. We obtained T1-weighted scans for 14 native signing prelingual and congenitally deaf subjects and 16 age- and gender-matched controls. We used linear and fluid registration to align each image to a common template. Using the voxel-wise determinant of the Jacobian of the fluid deformation, significant volume increases, of up to 20%, were found in frontal lobe white matter regions including Broca's area, and adjacent regions involved in motor control and language production. A similar analysis was performed on hand-traced corpora callosa. A strong trend for group differences was found in the area of the splenium considered to carry fibers connecting the temporal (and occipital) lobes. These anatomical differences may reflect experience-mediated developmental differences in myelination and cortical maturation associated with prolonged monomodal sensory deprivation. Hum Brain Mapp, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.