The size of our primary visual cortex and the amount of brain tissue we have dedicated to processing visual information at certain locations of visual space can predict how well we can see, a team of neuroscientists has discovered. Its study, which appears in the journal Nature Communications, reveals a new link between brain structure and behavior.
“We have found that we can predict how well someone can see based on the unique structure of their primary visual cortex,” explains lead author Marc Himmelberg, a postdoctoral researcher in New York University’s Center for Neural Science and Department of Psychology. “By showing that individual variation in the structure of the human visual brain is linked to variation in visual functioning, we can better understand what underlies differences in how people perceive and interact with their visual environment.”
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the scientists mapped the primary visual cortex (or “V1”) size of more than two dozen humans. The researchers also measured the quantity of V1 tissue these individuals have dedicated to processing visual information from different locations in their field of view—locations to the left, right, above, and below fixation.
Their results showed that differences in V1 surface area could predict measurements of people’s contrast sensitivity.