The human visual cortex

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2004;27:649-77. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.27.070203.144220.


The discovery and analysis of cortical visual areas is a major accomplishment of visual neuroscience. In the past decade the use of noninvasive functional imaging, particularly functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), has dramatically increased our detailed knowledge of the functional organization of the human visual cortex and its relation to visual perception. The fMRI method offers a major advantage over other techniques applied in neuroscience by providing a large-scale neuroanatomical perspective that stems from its ability to image the entire brain essentially at once. This bird's eye view has the potential to reveal large-scale principles within the very complex plethora of visual areas. Thus, it could arrange the entire constellation of human visual areas in a unified functional organizational framework. Here we review recent findings and methods employed to uncover the functional properties of the human visual cortex focusing on two themes: functional specialization and hierarchical processing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / trends
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / trends
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*