Human visual cortex: from receptive fields to maps to clusters to perception

Time/Room: Friday, May 11, 3:30 – 5:30 pm, Royal Ballroom 4-5
Organizer: Serge O. Dumoulin, Experimental Psychology, Helmholtz Institute, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands
Presenters: Serge O. Dumoulin, Koen V. Haak, Alex R. Wade, Mark M. Schira, Stelios M. Smirnakis, Alyssa A. Brewer

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Symposium Description

The organization of the visual system can be described at different spatial scales. At the smallest scale, the receptive field is a property of individual neurons and summarizes the region of the visual field where visual stimulation elicits a response. These receptive fields are organized into visual field maps, where neighboring neurons process neighboring parts of the visual field. Many visual field maps exist, suggesting that every map contains a unique representation of the visual field. This notion relates the visual field maps to the idea of functional specialization, i.e. separate cortical regions are involved in different processes. However, the computational processes within a visual field map do not have to coincide with perceptual qualities. Indeed most perceptual functions are associated with multiple visual field maps and even multiple cortical regions. Visual field maps are organized in clusters that share a similar eccentricity organization. This has lead to the proposal that perceptual specializations correlate with clusters rather than individual maps. This symposium will highlight current concepts of the organization of visual cortex and their relation to perception and plasticity. The speakers have used a variety of neuroimaging techniques with a focus on conventional functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) approaches, but also including high-resolution fMRI, electroencephalography (EEG), subdural electrocorticography (ECoG), and invasive electrophysiology. We will describe data-analysis techniques to reconstruct receptive field properties of neural populations, and extend them to visual field maps and clusters within human and macaque visual cortex. We describe the way these receptive field properties vary within and across different visual field maps. Next, we extend conventional stimulus-referred notions of the receptive field to neural-referred properties, i.e. cortico-cortical receptive fields that capture the information flow between visual field maps. We also demonstrate techniques to reveal extra-classical receptive field interactions similar to those seen in classical psychophysical “surround suppression” in both S-cone and achromatic pathways. Next we will consider the detailed organization within the foveal confluence, and model the unique constraints that are associated with this organization. Furthermore, we will consider how these neural properties change with the state of chronic visual deprivation due to damage to the visual system, and in subjects with severely altered visual input due to prism-adaptation. The link between visual cortex’ organization, perception and plasticity is a fundamental part of vision science. The symposium highlights these links at various spatial scales. In addition, the attendees will gain insight into a broad spectrum of state-of-the-art data-acquisition and data-analyses neuroimaging techniques. Therefore, we believe that this symposium will be of interest to a wide range of visual scientists, including students, researchers and faculty.


Reconstructing human population receptive field properties

Serge O. Dumoulin, Experimental Psychology, Helmholtz Institute, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands, B.M. Harvey, Experimental Psychology, Utrecht University, Netherlands

We describe a method that reconstructs population receptive field (pRF) properties in human visual cortex using fMRI. This data-analysis technique is able to reconstruct several properties of the underlying neural population, such as quantitative estimates of the pRF position (maps), size as well as suppressive surrounds. PRF sizes increase with increasing eccentricity and up the visual hierarchy. In the same human subject, fMRI pRF measurements are comparable to those derived from subdural electrocorticography (ECoG).   Furthermore, we describe a close relationship of pRF sizes to the cortical magnification factor (CMF). Within V1, interhemisphere and subject variations in CMF, pRF size, and V1 surface area are correlated. This suggests a constant processing unit shared between humans. PRF sizes increase between visual areas and with eccentricity, but when expressed in V1 cortical surface area (i.e., cortico-cortical pRFs), they are constant across eccentricity in V2 and V3. Thus, V2, V3, and to some degree hV4, sample from a constant extent of V1. This underscores the importance of V1 architecture as a reference frame for subsequent processing stages and ultimately perception.

Cortico-cortical receptive field modeling using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)

Koen V. Haak, Laboratory for Experimental Ophthalmology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands, J. Winawer, Psychology, Stanford University; B.M. Harvey, Experimental Psychology, Utrecht University; R. Renken, Laboratory for Experimental Ophthalmology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Netherlands; S.O. Dumoulin, Experimental Psychology, Utrecht University, Netherlands; B.A. Wandell, Psychology, Stanford University; F.W. Cornelissen, Laboratory for Experimental Ophthalmology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Netherlands

The traditional way to study the properties of cortical visual neurons is to measure responses to visually presented stimuli (stimulus-referred). A second way to understand neuronal computations is to characterize responses in terms of the responses in other parts of the nervous system (neural-referred).   A model that describes the relationship between responses in distinct cortical locations is essential to clarify the network of cortical signaling pathways. Just as a stimulus-referred receptive field predicts the neural response as a function of the stimulus contrast, the neural-referred receptive field predicts the neural response as a function of responses elsewhere in the nervous system. When applied to two cortical regions, this function can be called the population cortico-cortical receptive field (CCRF), and it can be used to assess the fine-grained topographic connectivity between early visual areas. Here, we model the CCRF as a Gaussian-weighted region on the cortical surface and apply the model to fMRI data from both stimulus-driven and resting-state experimental conditions in visual cortex to demonstrate that 1) higher order visual areas such as V2, V3, hV4 and the LOC show an increase in the CCRF size when sampling from the V1 surface, 2) the CCRF size of these higher order visual areas is constant over the V1 surface, 3) the method traces inherent properties of the visual cortical organization, 4) it probes the direction of the flow of information.

Imaging extraclassical receptive fields in early visual cortex

Alex R. Wade, Department of Psychology University of York, Heslington, UK, B. Xiao, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT; J. Rowland, Department of Art Practise, UC Berkeley

Psychophysically, apparent color and contrast can be modulated by long-range contextual effects. In this talk I will describe a series of neuroimaging experiments that we have performed to examine the effects of spatial context on color and contrast signals in early human visual cortex.   Using fMRI we first show that regions of high contrast in the fovea exert a long-range suppressive effect across visual cortex that is consistent with a contrast gain control mechanism. This suppression is weaker when using stimuli that excite the chromatic pathways and may occur relatively early in the visual processing stream (Wade, Rowland, J Neurosci, 2010).   We then used high-resolution source imaged EEG to examine the effects of context on V1 signals initiated in different chromatic and achromatic precortical pathways (Xiao and Wade, J Vision, 2010). We found that contextual effects similar to those seen in classical psychophysical “surround suppression” were present in both S-cone and achromatic pathways but that there was little contextual interaction between these pathways – either in our behavioral or in our neuroimaging paradigms.   Finally, we used fMRI multivariate pattern analysis techniques to examine the presence of chromatic tuning in large extraclassical receptive fields (ECRFs). We found that ECRFs have sufficient chromatic tuning to enable classification based solely on information in suppressed voxels that are not directly excited by the stimulus. In many cases, performance using ECRFs was as accurate as that using voxels driven directly by the stimulus.

The human foveal confluence and high resolution fMRI

Mark M. Schira, Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), Sydney & University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

After remaining terra incognita for 40 years, the detailed organization of the foveal confluence has just recently been described in humans. I will present recent high resolution mapping results in human subjects and introduce current concepts of its organization in human and other primates (Schira et al., J. Nsci, 2009). I will then introduce a new algebraic retino-cortical projection function that accurately models the V1-V3 complex to the level of our knowledge about the actual organization (Schira et al. PLoS Comp. Biol. 2010). Informed by this model I will discuss important properties of foveal cortex in primates. These considerations demonstrate that the observed organization though surprising at first hand is in fact a good compromise with respect to cortical surface and local isotropy, proving a potential explanation for this organization. Finally, I will discuss recent advances such as multi-channel head coils and parallel imaging which have greatly improved the quality and possibilities of MRI. Unfortunately, most fMRI research is still essentially performed in the same old 3 by 3 by 3 mm style – which was adequate when using a 1.5T scanner and a birdcage head coil. I will introduce simple high resolution techniques that allow fairly accurate estimates of the foveal organization in research subjects within a reasonable timeframe of approximately 20 minutes, providing a powerful tool for research of foveal vision.

Population receptive field measurements in macaque visual cortex

Stelios M. Smirnakis, Departments of Neurosci. and Neurol., Baylor Col. of Med., Houston, TX, G.A. Keliris, Max Planck Inst. For Biol. Cybernetics, Tuebingen, Germany; Y. Shao, A. Papanikolaou, Max Planck Inst. For Biol. Cybernetics, Tuebingen, Germany;   N.K. Logothetis, Max Planck Inst. For Biol. Cybernetics, Tuebingen, Germany, Div. of Imaging Sci. and Biomed. Engin., Univ. of Manchester, United Kingdom

Visual receptive fields have dynamic properties that may change with the conditions of visual stimulation or with the state of chronic visual deprivation. We used 4.7 Tesla functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the visual cortex of two normal adult macaque monkeys and one macaque with binocular central retinal lesions due to a form of juvenile macular degeneration (MD). FMRI experiments were performed under light remifentanyl induced anesthesia (Logothetis et al. Nat. Neurosci. 1999). Standard moving horizontal/vertical bar stimuli were presented to the subjects and the population receptive field (pRF) method (Dumoulin and Wandell, Neuroimage 2008) was used to measure retinotopic maps and pRF sizes in early visual areas.   FMRI measurements of normal monkeys agree with published electrophysiological results, with pRF sizes and electrophysiology measurements showing similar trends. For the MD monkey, the size and location of the lesion projection zone (LPZ) was consistent with the retinotopic projection of the retinal lesion in early visual areas. No significant BOLD activity was seen within the V1 LPZ, and the retinotopic organization of the non-deafferented V1 periphery was regular without distortion. Interestingly, area V5/MT of the MD monkey showed more extensive activation than area V5/MT of control monkeys which had part of their visual field obscured (artificial scotoma) to match the scotoma of the MD monkey. V5/MT PRF sizes of the MD monkey were on average smaller than controls. PRF estimation methods allow us to measure and follow in vivo how the properties of visual areas change as a function of cortical reorganization. Finally, if there is time, we will discuss a different method of pRF estimation that yields additional information.

Functional plasticity in human parietal visual field map clusters: Adapting to reversed visual input

Alyssa A. Brewer, Department of Cognitive Sciences University of California, Irvine Irvine, CA, B. Barton, Department of Cognitive Sciences University of California, Irvine; L. Lin, AcuFocus, Inc., Irvine

Knowledge of the normal organization of visual field map clusters allows us to study potential reorganization within visual cortex under conditions that lead to a disruption of the normal visual inputs. Here we exploit the dynamic nature of visuomotor regions in posterior parietal cortex to examine cortical functional plasticity induced by a complete reversal of visual input in normal adult humans. We also investigate whether there is a difference in the timing or degree of a second adaptation to the left-right visual field reversal in adult humans after long-term recovery from the initial adaptation period. Subjects wore left-right reversing prism spectacles continuously for 14 days and then returned for a 4-day re-adaptation to the reversed visual field 1-9 months later. For each subject, we used population receptive field modeling fMRI methods to track the receptive field alterations within the occipital and parietal visual field map clusters across time points. The results from the first 14-day experimental period highlight a systematic and gradual shift of visual field coverage from contralateral space into ipsilateral space in parietal cortex throughout the prism adaptation period. After the second, 4-day experimental period, the data demonstrate a faster time course for both behavioral and cortical re-adaptation. These measurements in subjects with severely altered visual input allow us to identify the cortical regions subserving the dynamic remapping of cortical representations in response to altered visual perception and demonstrate that the changes in the maps produced by the initial long prism adaptation period persist over an extended time.

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