The Human Visual Pathways: Maps, Plasticity, and Reading

Jun 7, 10 | | 4,059 views | 1 Comment

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wandellVisual cortex is an excellent model system for developing a quantitative understanding of brain function. We understand a great deal about the physical signals that initiate vision, and this knowledge has led to a relatively advanced understanding of the organization of major structures in visual cortex. This talk will provide three examples of how we are applying neuroimaging methods to understanding human visual cortex. First, we developed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) methods for measuring and quantifying many visual field maps and receptive field sizes in individual human brains. These analyses suggest a new organization of visual cortex based on clusters of visual field maps that share a common eccentricity organization. Second, we made functional measurements of cortical plasticity in primary visual cortex in the cases of abnormal retinal development, retinal disorders, and acquired damage. These measurements define limits to human cortical plasticity, and clarify the nature of responses in human visual cortex that has been deprived of retinal input. Third, we are combining fMRI with measurements of the long-range axons (white matter) to understand development of the pathways essential for reading. I will describe some new ideas to improve algorithms for analyzing human white matter. Applying these ideas, we have been able to identify specific white matter tracts whose development correlates with the development of skilled reading.

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Brian Wandell

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