Variability of the Surface Area of the V1, V2, and V3 Maps in a Large Sample of Human Observers

Noah C. Benson, Jennifer M.D. Yoon, Dylan Forenzo, Stephen A. Engel, Kendrick N. Kay, Jonathan Winawer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How variable is the functionally defined structure of early visual areas in human cortex and how much variability is shared between twins? Here we quantify individual differences in the best understood functionally defined regions of cortex: V1, V2, V3. The Human Connectome Project 7T Retinotopy Dataset includes retinotopic measurements from 181 subjects (109 female, 72 male), including many twins. We trained four “anatomists” to manually define V1-V3 using retinotopic features. These definitions were more accurate than automated anatomical templates and showed that surface areas for these maps varied more than threefold across individuals. This threefold variation was little changed when normalizing visual area size by the surface area of the entire cerebral cortex. In addition to varying in size, we find that visual areas vary in how they sample the visual field. Specifically, the cortical magnification function differed substantially among individuals, with the relative amount of cortex devoted to central vision varying by more than a factor of 2. To complement the variability analysis, we examined the similarity of visual area size and structure across twins. Whereas the twin sample sizes are too small to make precise heritability estimates (50 monozygotic pairs, 34 dizygotic pairs), they nonetheless reveal high correlations, consistent with strong effects of the combination of shared genes and environment on visual area size. Collectively, these results provide the most comprehensive account of individual variability in visual area structure to date, and provide a robust population benchmark against which new individuals and developmental and clinical populations can be compared.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8629-8646
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 16 2022


  • Human Connectome Project
  • V1
  • cortical magnification
  • heritability
  • retinotopy
  • visual cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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