Researchers create a universal map of vision in the human brain

October 4, 2012, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Credit: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Nearly 100 years after a British neurologist first mapped the blind spots caused by missile wounds to the brains of soldiers, Perelman School of Medicine researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have perfected his map using modern-day technology. Their results create a map of vision in the brain based upon an individual's brain structure, even for people who cannot see. Their result can, among other things, guide efforts to restore vision using a neural prosthesis that stimulates the surface of the brain. The study appears in the latest issue of Current Biology.

Scientists frequently use a brain imaging technique called functional MRI (fMRI) to measure the seemingly unique activation map of vision on an individual's brain. This fMRI test requires staring at a flashing screen for many minutes while is measured, which is an impossibility for people blinded by eye disease. The Penn team has solved this problem by finding a common across people of the relationship between visual function and .

"By measuring brain anatomy and applying an algorithm, we can now accurately predict how the visual world for an individual should be arranged on the surface of the brain," said senior author Geoffrey Aguirre, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Neurology. "We are already using this advance to study how vision loss changes the organization of the brain."

The researchers combined traditional fMRI measures of brain activity from 25 people with normal vision. They then identified a precise statistical relationship between the structure of the folds of the brain and the representation of the visual world.

"At first, it seems like the visual area of the brain has a different shape and size in every person," said co-lead author Noah Benson, PhD, post-doctoral researcher in Psychology and Neurology. "Building upon prior studies of regularities in brain anatomy, we found that these individual differences go away when examined with our mathematical template."

A World War I neurologist, Gordon Holmes, is generally credited with creating the first schematic of this relationship. "He produced a remarkably accurate map in 1918 with only the crudest of techniques," said co-lead author Omar Butt, MD/PhD candidate in the Perelman School of Medicine at Penn. "We have now locked down the details, but it's taken 100 years and a lot of technology to get it right."

The research was funded by grants from Pennsylvania State CURE fund and the National Institutes of Health (P30 EY001583, P30 NS045839-08, R01 EY020516-01A1).

Explore further: New study examines brain processes behind facial recognition

More information: NC Benson, et al., The Retinotopic Organization of Striate Cortex Is Well Predicted by Surface Topology, Current Biology (2012).

cfn.upenn.edu/aguirre/wiki/pub … _currbio_2012_benson

Related Stories

New study examines brain processes behind facial recognition

April 18, 2011
When you think you see a face in the clouds or in the moon, you may wonder why it never seems to be upside down.

Study shows vision is necessary for spatial awareness tasks

March 21, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- People who lose their sight at a later stage in life have a greater spatial awareness than if they were born blind, according to scientists at Queen Mary, University of London.

Neuroscientists unlock shared brain codes

October 20, 2011
A team of neuroscientists at Dartmouth College has shown that different individuals' brains use the same, common neural code to recognize complex visual images.

Researchers utilize neuroimaging to show how brain uses objects to recognize scenes

September 13, 2011
Research conducted by Boston College neuroscientist Sean MacEvoy and colleague Russell Epstein of the University of Pennsylvania finds evidence of a new way of considering how the brain processes and recognizes a person's ...

Recommended for you

Research reveals atomic-level changes in ALS-linked protein

January 18, 2018
For the first time, researchers have described atom-by-atom changes in a family of proteins linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a group of brain disorders known as frontotemporal dementia and degenerative diseases ...

Fragile X finding shows normal neurons that interact poorly

January 18, 2018
Neurons in mice afflicted with the genetic defect that causes Fragile X syndrome (FXS) appear similar to those in healthy mice, but these neurons fail to interact normally, resulting in the long-known cognitive impairments, ...

How your brain remembers what you had for dinner last night

January 17, 2018
Confirming earlier computational models, researchers at University of California San Diego and UC San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Arizona and Louisiana, report that episodic memories are encoded in the hippocampus ...

Recording a thought's fleeting trip through the brain

January 17, 2018
University of California, Berkeley neuroscientists have tracked the progress of a thought through the brain, showing clearly how the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain coordinates activity to help us act in response ...

Midbrain 'start neurons' control whether we walk or run

January 17, 2018
Locomotion comprises the most fundamental movements we perform. It is a complex sequence from initiating the first step, to stopping when we reach our goal. At the same time, locomotion is executed at different speeds to ...

Neuroscientists suggest a model for how we gain volitional control of what we hold in our minds

January 16, 2018
Working memory is a sort of "mental sketchpad" that allows you to accomplish everyday tasks such as calling in your hungry family's takeout order and finding the bathroom you were just told "will be the third door on the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.