Maps of visual space in human occipital cortex are retinotopic, not spatiotopic

Justin L. Gardner, Elisha P. Merriam, J. Anthony Movshon, David J. Heeger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We experience the visual world as phenomenally invariant to eye position, but almost all cortical maps of visual space in monkeys use a retinotopic reference frame, that is, the cortical representation of a point in the visual world is different across eye positions. It was recently reported that human cortical area MT (unlike monkey MT) represents stimuli in a reference frame linked to the position of stimuli in space, a "spatiotopic" reference frame. We used visuotopic mapping with blood oxygen level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging signals to define 12 human visual cortical areas, and then determined whether the reference frame in each area was spatiotopic or retinotopic. We found that all 12 areas, including MT, represented stimuli in a retinotopic reference frame. Although there were patches of cortex in and around these visual areas that were ostensibly spatiotopic, none of these patches exhibited reliable stimulus-evoked responses. We conclude that the early, visuotopically organized visual cortical areas in the human brain (like their counterparts in the monkey brain) represent stimuli in a retinotopic reference frame.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3988-3999
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 9 2008


  • Comparative anatomy
  • Cortex
  • Extrastriate
  • Reference frame
  • Retinotopy
  • Topography
  • Vision
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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