Multivariate decoding analyses are widely applied to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data, but there is controversy over their interpretation. Orientation decoding in primary visual cortex (V1) reflects coarse-scale biases, including an over-representation of radial orientations. But fMRI responses to clockwise and counter-clockwise spirals can also be decoded. Because these stimuli are matched for radial orientation, while differing in local orientation, it has been argued that fine-scale columnar selectivity for orientation contributes to orientation decoding. We measured fMRI responses in human V1 to both oriented gratings and spirals. Responses to oriented gratings exhibited a complex topography, including a radial bias that was most pronounced in the peripheral representation, and a near-vertical bias that was most pronounced near the foveal representation. Responses to clockwise and counter-clockwise spirals also exhibited coarse-scale organization, at the scale of entire visual quadrants. The preference of each voxel for clockwise or counterclockwise spirals was predicted from the preferences of that voxel for orientation and spatial position (i.e., within the retinotopic map). Our results demonstrate a bias for local stimulus orientation that has a coarse spatial scale, is robust across stimulus classes (spirals and gratings), and suffices to explain decoding from fMRI responses in V1.
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