Neural modulation by binocular disparity greatest in human dorsal visual stream

J Neurophysiol. 2010 Jul;104(1):169-78. doi: 10.1152/jn.00790.2009. Epub 2010 May 5.


Although cortical activation to binocular disparity can be demonstrated throughout occipital and parietal cortices, the relative contributions to depth perception made by different human cortical areas have not been established. To investigate whether different regions are optimized for specific disparity ranges, we have measured the responses of occipital and parietal areas to different magnitudes of binocular disparity. Using stimuli consisting of sinusoidal depth modulations, we measured cortical activation when the stimuli were located at pedestal disparities of 0, 0.1, 0.35, and 0.7 degrees from fixation. Across all areas, occipital and parietal, there was an increase in BOLD signal with increasing pedestal disparity, compared with a plane at zero disparity. However, the greatest modulation of response by the different pedestals was found in the dorsal visual areas and the parietal areas. These differences contrast with the response to the zero disparity plane, compared with fixation, which is greatest in the early visual areas, smaller in the ventral and dorsal visual areas, and absent in parietal areas. Using the simultaneously acquired psychophysical data we also measured a greater response to correct than to incorrect trials, an effect that increased with rising pedestal disparity and was greatest in dorsal visual and parietal areas. These results illustrate that the dorsal stream, along both its occipital and parietal branches, can reliably discriminate a large range of disparities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Retina / physiology
  • Vision Disparity / physiology*
  • Visual Acuity / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*


  • Oxygen