Mapping Visual Field Defects With fMRI - Impact of Approach and Experimental Conditions

Front Neurosci. 2021 Sep 8:15:745886. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2021.745886. eCollection 2021.


Current initiatives to restore vision emphasize the need for objective assessments of visual field (VF) defects as pursued with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) approaches. Here, we compared population receptive field (pRF) mapping-based VF reconstructions to an fMRI method that uses more robust visual stimulation (on-off block design) in combination with individualized anatomy-driven retinotopic atlas-information (atlas-based VF). We investigated participants with sizable peripheral VF-deficits due to advanced glaucoma (n = 4) or retinitis pigmentosa (RP; n = 2) and controls (n = 6) with simulated scotoma. We obtained (1) standard automated perimetry (SAP) data as reference VFs and 3T fMRI data for (2) pRF-mapping [8-direction bar stimulus, fixation color change task] and (3) block-design full-field stimulation [8-direction drifting contrast patterns during (a) passive viewing (PV) and (b) one-back-task (OBT; reporting successions of identical motion directions) to probe the impact of previously reported task-related unspecific visual cortex activations]. Correspondence measures between the SAP and fMRI-based VFs were accuracy, assisted by sensitivity and specificity. We found an accuracy of pRF-based VF from V1 in patients [median: 0.62] that was similar to previous reports and increased by adding V2 and V3 to the analysis [0.74]. In comparison to the pRF-based VF, equivalent accuracies were obtained for the atlas-based VF for both PV [0.67] and, unexpectedly, the OBT [0.59], where, however, unspecific cortical activations were reflected by a reduction in sensitivity [0.71 (PV) and 0.35 (OBT)]. In conclusion, in patients with peripheral VF-defects, we demonstrate that previous fMRI procedures to obtain VF-estimates might be enhanced by: (1) pooling V1-V3 to enhance accuracy; (2) reporting sensitivity and specificity measures to increase transparency of the VF-reconstruction metric; (3) applying atlas-based procedures, if pRF-based VFs are not available or difficult to obtain; and (4) giving, counter-intuitively, preference to PV. These findings are expected to provide guidance to overcome current limitations of translating fMRI-based methods to a clinical work-up.

Keywords: atlas; glaucoma; human visual cortex; perimetry; retinitis pigmentosa; retinotopy; scotoma; vision.