Plasticity, and its limits, in adult human primary visual cortex

Koen V. Haak, Antony B. Morland, Stephen A. Engel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


There is an ongoing debate about whether adult human primary visual cortex (V1) is capable of large-scale cortical reorganization in response to bilateral retinal lesions. Animal models suggest that the visual neural circuitry maintains some plasticity through adulthood, and there are also a few human imaging studies in support this notion. However, the interpretation of these data has been brought into question, because there are factors besides cortical reorganization, such as the presence of sampling bias and/or the unmasking of task-dependent feedback signals from higher level visual areas, that could also explain the results. How reasonable would it be to accept that adult human V1 does not reorganize itself in the face of disease? Here, we discuss new evidence for the hypothesis that adult human V1 is not as capable of reorganization as in animals and juveniles, because in adult humans, cortical reorganization would come with costs that outweigh its benefits. These costs are likely functional and visible in recent experiments on adaptation - a rapid, short-term form of neural plasticity-where they prevent reorganization from being sustained over the long term.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-307
Number of pages11
JournalMultisensory Research
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Apr 30 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden.


  • Neuroplasticity
  • costs
  • human adults
  • primary visual cortex


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