Assessing functional reorganization in visual cortex with simulated retinal lesions

Holly D.H. Brown, André D. Gouws, Richard J.W. Vernon, Samuel J.D. Lawrence, Gemma Donnelly, Lorraine Gill, Richard P. Gale, Heidi A. Baseler, Antony B. Morland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Macular degeneration (MD) causes central vision loss, removing input to corresponding representations in the primary visual cortex. There is disagreement concerning whether the cortical regions deprived of input can remain responsive, and the source of reported cortical responses is still debated. To simulate MD in controls, normally sighted participants viewed a bright central disk to adapt the retina, creating a transient ‘retinal lesion’ during a functional MRI experiment. Participants viewed blocks of faces, scrambled faces and uniform grey stimuli, either passively or whilst performing a one-back task. To assess the impact of the simulated lesion, participants repeated the paradigm using a more conventional mean luminance simulated scotoma without adaptation. Our results suggest our attempt to create a more realistic simulation of a lesion did not impact on responses in the representation of the simulated lesion. While most participants showed no evidence of stimulus-driven activation within the lesion representation, a few individuals (22%) exhibited responses similar to a participant with juvenile MD who completed the same paradigm (without adaptation). Reliability analysis showed that responses in the representation of the lesion were generally consistent irrespective of whether positive or negative. We provide some evidence that peripheral visual stimulation can also produce responses in central representations in controls while performing a task. This suggests that the ‘signature of reorganization of visual processing’, is not found solely in patients with retinal lesions, consistent with the idea that activity may be driven by unmasked top–down feedback.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2855-2867
Number of pages13
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Issue number9
Early online date16 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

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