Effect of luminance contrast on BOLD fMRI response in human primary visual areas

J Neurophysiol. 1998 Apr;79(4):2204-7. doi: 10.1152/jn.1998.79.4.2204.


In this study, we examined the effect of stimulus luminance contrast on blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging within human visual cortex (V1 and extrastriate). Between experiments, the calibrated luminance of a single red LED covering 2 degrees of the subject's visual field was changed relative to a constant background luminance. This stimulus provided a different foveal luminance contrast for each experiment. We used an echo planar imaging sequence to collect blood-oxygenation-sensitive images during and in the absence of the presented stimulus. Our results showed that within V1 there was an increase in the spatial extent of activation with increasing stimulus contrast, but no trend was seen within extrastriate. In both V1 and extrastriate, the local mean activation level for all activated image pixels remained constant with increasing luminance contrast. However, when we investigated activated pixels common to all luminance contrast levels, we found that there was an increase in the mean activation level within V1, but not within extrastriate. These results suggest that there is an increase in the activity of cells in V1 with increasing luminance contrast.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology*
  • Fovea Centralis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Magnetics
  • Oxygen / blood*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*


  • Oxygen