The representation of the visual field in early visual areas is retinotopic. The point-to-point relationship on the retina is therefore maintained on the convoluted cortical surface. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been able to demonstrate the retinotopic representation of the visual field in occipital cortex of normal subjects. Furthermore, visual areas that are retinotopic can be identified on computationally flattened cortical maps on the basis of positions of the vertical and horizontal meridians. Here, we investigate abnormal retinotopic representations in human visual cortex with fMRI. We present three case studies in which patients with visual disorders are investigated. We have tested a subject who only possesses operating rod photoreceptors. We find in this case that the cortex undergoes a remapping whereby regions that would normally represent central field locations now map more peripheral positions in the visual field. In a human albino we also find abnormal visual cortical activity. Monocular stimulation of each hemifield resulted in activations in the hemisphere contralateral to the stimulated eye. This is consistent with abnormal decussation at the optic chiasm in albinism. Finally, we report a case where a lesion to white matter has resulted in a lack of measurable activity in occipital cortex. The activity was absent for a small region of the visual field, which was found to correspond to the subject's field defect. The cases selected have been chosen to demonstrate the power of fMRI in identifying abnormalities in the cortical representations of the visual field in patients with visual dysfunction. Furthermore, the experiments are able to show how the cortex is capable of modifying the visual field representation in response to abnormal input. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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