Impact of Early and Late Visual Deprivation on the Structure of the Corpus Callosum: A Study Combining Thickness Profile with Surface Tensor-based Morphometry

Jie Shi, Olivier Collignon, Liang Xu, Gang Wang, Yue Kang, Franco Leporé Yi Lao, Anand A. Joshi, Natasha Leporé* and Yalin Wang*


Blindness represents a unique model to study how visual experience may shape the development of brain organization. Exploring how the structure of the corpus callosum (CC) reorganizes ensuing visual deprivation is of particular interest due to its important functional implication in vision (e.g. via the splenium of the CC). Moreover, comparing early versus late visually deprived individuals has the potential to unravel the existence of a sensitive period for reshaping the CC structure. Here, we develop a novel framework to capture a complete set of shape differences in the CC between congenitally blind (CB), late blind (LB) and sighted control (SC) groups. The CCs were manually segmented from T1-weighted brain MRI and modeled by 3D tetrahedral meshes. We statistically compared the combination of local area and thickness at each point between subject groups. Differences in area are found using surface tensor-based morphometry; thickness is estimated by tracing the streamlines in the volumetric harmonic field. Group differences were assessed on this combined measure using Hotelling's T2 test. Interestingly, we observed that the total callosal volume did not differ between the groups. However, our fine-grained analysis reveals significant differences mostly localized around the splenium areas between both blind groups and the sighted group (general effects of blindness) and, importantly, specific dissimilarities between the LB and CB groups, illustrating the existence of a sensitive period for reorganization. The new multivariate statistics also gave better effect sizes for detecting morphometric differences, relative to other statistics. They may boost statistical power for CC morphometric analyses.

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