Measurement of population receptive fields in human early visual cortex using back-projection tomography

Clint A. Greene, Serge O. Dumoulin, Ben M. Harvey, David Ress*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Properties of human visual population receptive fields (pRFs) are currently estimated by performing measurements of visual stimulation using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and then fitting the results using a predefined model shape for the pRF. Various models exist and different models may be appropriate under different circumstances, but the validity of the models has never been verified, suggesting the need for a model-free approach. Here, we demonstrate that pRFs can be directly reconstructed using a back-projection-tomography approach that requires no a priori model. The back-projection method involves sweeping thin contrast-defined bars across the visual field whose orientation and direction is rotated through 0°-180° in discrete increments. The measured fMRI time series within a cortical location can be approximated as a projection of the pRF along the long axis of the bar. The signals produced by a set of bar sweeps encircling the visual field form a sinogram. pRFs were reconstructed from these sinograms with a novel scheme that corrects for the blur introduced by the hemodynamic response and the stimulus-bar width. pRF positions agree well with the conventional model-based approach. Notably, a subset of the reconstructed pRFs shows significant asymmetry for both their excitatory and suppressive regions. Reconstructing pRFs using the tomographic approach is a fast, reliable, and accurate way to noninvasively estimate human pRF parameters and visual-field maps without the need for any a priori shape assumption.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2014


  • Cerebral cortex
  • fMRI
  • Receptive field
  • Tomography
  • Vision


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