Sensitivity to the visual field origin of natural image patches in human low-level visual cortex

PeerJ. 2015 Jun 23;3:e1038. doi: 10.7717/peerj.1038. eCollection 2015.


Asymmetries in the response to visual patterns in the upper and lower visual fields (above and below the centre of gaze) have been associated with ecological factors relating to the structure of typical visual environments. Here, we investigated whether the content of the upper and lower visual field representations in low-level regions of human visual cortex are specialised for visual patterns that arise from the upper and lower visual fields in natural images. We presented image patches, drawn from above or below the centre of gaze of an observer navigating a natural environment, to either the upper or lower visual fields of human participants (n = 7) while we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the magnitude of evoked activity in the visual areas V1, V2, and V3. We found a significant interaction between the presentation location (upper or lower visual field) and the image patch source location (above or below fixation); the responses to lower visual field presentation were significantly greater for image patches sourced from below than above fixation, while the responses in the upper visual field were not significantly different for image patches sourced from above and below fixation. This finding demonstrates an association between the representation of the lower visual field in human visual cortex and the structure of the visual input that is likely to be encountered below the centre of gaze.

Keywords: Asymmetry; Upper/lower visual field; Visual environment; fMRI.

Grant support

This work was supported by an Early Career Research grant from the Faculty of Science, UNSW Australia. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.