Neural activity in early visual cortex is modulated by luminance contrast. Cortical depth (i.e., laminar) contrast responses have been studied in monkey early visual cortex, but not in humans. In addition to the high spatial resolution needed and the ensuing low signal-to-noise ratio, laminar studies in humans using fMRI are hampered by the strong venous vascular weighting of the fMRI signal. In this study, we measured luminance contrast responses in human V1 and V2 with high-resolution fMRI at 7 T. To account for the effect of intracortical ascending veins, we applied a novel spatial deconvolution model to the fMRI depth profiles. Before spatial deconvolution, the contrast response in V1 showed a slight local maximum at mid cortical depth, whereas V2 exhibited a monotonic signal increase toward the cortical surface. After applying the deconvolution, both V1 and V2 showed a pronounced local maximum at mid cortical depth, with an additional peak in deep grey matter, especially in V1. Moreover, we found a difference in contrast sensitivity between V1 and V2, but no evidence for variations in contrast sensitivity as a function of cortical depth. These findings are in agreement with results obtained in nonhuman primates, but further research will be needed to validate the spatial deconvolution approach.
Keywords: area V1; area V2; contrast response function; cortical layers; feedforward processing; high-resolution fMRI; laminar fMRI; luminance contrast; ultra-high-field MRI.
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