Population receptive field analysis of the primary visual cortex complements perimetry in patients with homonymous visual field defects

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Apr 22;111(16):E1656-65. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1317074111. Epub 2014 Apr 3.


Injury to the primary visual cortex (V1) typically leads to loss of conscious vision in the corresponding, homonymous region of the contralateral visual hemifield (scotoma). Several studies suggest that V1 is highly plastic after injury to the visual pathways, whereas others have called this conclusion into question. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure area V1 population receptive field (pRF) properties in five patients with partial or complete quadrantic visual field loss as a result of partial V1+ or optic radiation lesions. Comparisons were made with healthy controls deprived of visual stimulation in one quadrant ["artificial scotoma" (AS)]. We observed no large-scale changes in spared-V1 topography as the V1/V2 border remained stable, and pRF eccentricity versus cortical-distance plots were similar to those of controls. Interestingly, three observations suggest limited reorganization: (i) the distribution of pRF centers in spared-V1 was shifted slightly toward the scotoma border in 2 of 5 patients compared with AS controls; (ii) pRF size in spared-V1 was slightly increased in patients near the scotoma border; and (iii) pRF size in the contralesional hemisphere was slightly increased compared with AS controls. Importantly, pRF measurements yield information about the functional properties of spared-V1 cortex not provided by standard perimetry mapping. In three patients, spared-V1 pRF maps overlapped significantly with dense regions of the perimetric scotoma, suggesting that pRF analysis may help identify visual field locations amenable to rehabilitation. Conversely, in the remaining two patients, spared-V1 pRF maps failed to cover sighted locations in the perimetric map, indicating the existence of V1-bypassing pathways able to mediate useful vision.

Keywords: cortical blindness; hemianopia; plasticity; quadrantanopia; retinotopy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Blindness / pathology
  • Blindness / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Retina / pathology
  • Retina / physiopathology
  • Scotoma / pathology
  • Scotoma / physiopathology
  • Visual Cortex / pathology
  • Visual Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Visual Field Tests*
  • Visual Fields / physiology*