Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to measure activity in human parietal cortex during performance of a visual detection task in which the focus of attention systematically traversed the visual field. Critically, the stimuli were identical on all trials (except for slight contrast changes in a fully randomized selection of the target locations) whereas only the cued location varied. Traveling waves of activity were observed in posterior parietal cortex consistent with shifts in covert attention in the absence of eye movements. The temporal phase of the fMRI signal in each voxel indicated the corresponding visual field location. Visualization of the distribution of temporal phases on a flattened representation of parietal cortex revealed at least two distinct topographically organized cortical areas within the intraparietal sulcus (IPS), each representing the contralateral visual field. Two cortical areas were proposed based on this topographic organization, which we refer to as IPS1 and IPS2 to indicate their locations within the IPS. This nomenclature is neutral with respect to possible homologies with well-established cortical areas in the monkey brain. The two proposed cortical areas exhibited relatively little response to passive visual stimulation in comparison with early visual areas. These results provide evidence for multiple topographic maps in human parietal cortex.
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