Bilateral visual field maps in a patient with only one hemisphere
A paper in PNAS by Lars Muckli, Marcus J. Naumerd and Wolf Singer provides remarkable evidence of plasticity in the brain.
Abstract: In mammals smooth retinotopic maps of the visual field are formed along the visual processing pathway whereby the left visual field is represented in the right hemisphere and vice versa. The reorganization of retinotopic maps in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of the thalamus and early visual areas (V1–V3) is studied in a patient who was born with only one cerebral hemisphere. Before the seventh week of embryonic gestation, the development of the patient's right cerebral hemisphere terminated. Despite the complete loss of her right hemisphere (di- and telencephalon) at birth, the patient's remaining hemisphere has not only developed maps of the contralateral (right) visual hemifield but, surprisingly, also maps of the ipsilateral (left) visual hemifield. Retinal ganglion-cells changed their predetermined crossing pattern in the optic chiasm and grew to the ipsilateral LGN. In the visual cortex, islands of ipsilateral visual field representations were located along the representations of the vertical meridian. In V1, smooth and continuous maps from contra- and ipsilateral hemifield overlap each other, whereas in ventral V2 and V3 ipsilateral quarter field representations invaded small distinct cortical patches. This reveals a surprising flexibility of the self-organizing developmental mechanisms responsible for map formation.