Selectivity of human retinotopic visual cortex to S-cone-opponent, L/M-cone-opponent and achromatic stimulation

Eur J Neurosci. 2007 Jan;25(2):491-502. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2007.05302.x.


Our aim was to make a quantitative comparison of the response of the different visual cortical areas to selective stimulation of the two different cone-opponent pathways [long- and medium-wavelength (L/M)- and short-wavelength (S)-cone-opponent] and the achromatic pathway under equivalent conditions. The appropriate stimulus-contrast metric for the comparison of colour and achromatic sensitivity is unknown, however, and so a secondary aim was to investigate whether equivalent fMRI responses of each cortical area are predicted by stimulus contrast matched in multiples of detection threshold that approximately equates for visibility, or direct (cone) contrast matches in which psychophysical sensitivity is uncorrected. We found that the fMRI response across the two colour and achromatic pathways is not well predicted by threshold-scaled stimuli (perceptual visibility) but is better predicted by cone contrast, particularly for area V1. Our results show that the early visual areas (V1, V2, V3, VP and hV4) all have robust responses to colour. No area showed an overall colour preference, however, until anterior to V4 where we found a ventral occipital region that has a significant preference for chromatic stimuli, indicating a functional distinction from earlier areas. We found that all of these areas have a surprisingly strong response to S-cone stimuli, at least as great as the L/M response, suggesting a relative enhancement of the S-cone cortical signal. We also identified two areas (V3A and hMT+) with a significant preference for achromatic over chromatic stimuli, indicating a functional grouping into a dorsal pathway with a strong magnocellular input.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Color
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Color Perception Tests / methods
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*