Retinotopic organization of visual mental images as revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging

Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2004 Dec;22(1):26-31. doi: 10.1016/j.cogbrainres.2004.07.006.


In this study, we used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate whether visual mental images retinotopically activate early visual cortex. Six participants were instructed to visualize or view horizontally or vertically oriented flashing bow-tie shaped stimuli. When compared to baseline, imagery globally activated Area V1. When the activation evoked by the stimuli at the different orientations was directly compared, distinct spatial activation patterns were obtained for each orientation in most participants. Not only was the topography of the activation patterns from imagery similar to the topography obtained with a corresponding visual perception task, but it closely matched the individual cortical representation of either the horizontal or the vertical visual field meridians. These findings strongly support that visual imagery and perception share low-level anatomical substrate and functional processes. Binding of spatial features is suggested as one possible mechanism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Orientation
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Visual Cortex / blood supply
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / blood supply
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*


  • Oxygen