The representation of orientation in primary visual cortex (V1) has been examined at a fine spatial scale corresponding to the columnar architecture. We present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measurements providing evidence for a topographic map of orientation preference inhumanV1at amuchcoarser scale, in register with the angular-position component of the retinotopicmap of V1. This coarse-scale orientation map provides a parsimonious explanation for why multivariate pattern analysis methods succeed in decoding stimulus orientation from fMRI measurements, challenging the widely held assumption that decoding results reflect sampling of spatial irregularities in the fine-scale columnar architecture. Decoding stimulus attributes and cognitive states from fMRI measurements has proven useful for a number of applications, but our results demonstrate that the interpretation cannot assume decoding reflects or exploits columnar organization.
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