Structural Covariance and Heritability of the Optic Tract and Primary Visual Cortex in Living Human Brains

Toshikazu Miyata, Noah C. Benson, Jonathan Winawer, Hiromasa Takemura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Individual differences among human brains exist at many scales, spanning gene expression, white matter tissue properties, and the size and shape of cortical areas. One notable example is an approximately 3-fold range in the size of human primary visual cortex (V1), a much larger range than is found in overall brain size. A previous study (Andrews et al., 1997) reported a correlation between optic tract (OT) cross-section area and V1 size in postmortem human brains, suggesting that there may be a common developmental mechanism for multiple components of the visual pathways. We evaluated the relationship between properties of the OT and V1 in a much larger sample of living human brains by analyzing the Human Connectome Project (HCP) 7 Tesla Retinotopy Dataset (including 107 females and 71 males). This dataset includes retinotopic maps measured with functional MRI (fMRI) and fiber tract data measured with diffusion MRI (dMRI). We found a negative correlation between OT fractional anisotropy (FA) and V1 surface area (r = 20.19). This correlation, although small, was consistent across multiple dMRI datasets differing in acquisition parameters. Further, we found that both V1 surface area and OT properties were correlated among twins, with higher correlations for monozygotic (MZ) than dizygotic (DZ) twins, indicating a high degree of heritability for both properties. Together, these results demonstrate covariation across individuals in properties of the retina (OT) and cortex (V1) and show that each is influenced by genetic factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6761-6769
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number35
StatePublished - Aug 31 2022


  • diffusion MRI
  • functional MRI
  • optic tract
  • primary visual cortex
  • structural covariance
  • white matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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