Functional magnetic resonance imaging of the retina

UMMS Affiliation

Center for Comparative NeuroImaging

Publication Date


Document Type



Animals; Cats; Choroid; Female; Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Photic Stimulation; Retina; Visual Fields


Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


PURPOSE: This study explored the feasibility of mapping the retina's responses to visual stimuli noninvasively, by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). METHODS: fMRI was performed on a 9.4-Tesla scanner to map activity-evoked signal changes of the retina-choroid complex associated with visual stimulation in anesthetized cats (n = 6). Three to 12 1-mm slices were acquired in a single shot using inversion-recovery, echo-planar imaging with a nominal in-plane resolution of 468 x 468 microm(2). Visual stimuli were presented to the full visual field and to the upper and lower visual fields. The stimuli were drifting or stationary gratings, which were compared with the dark condition. Activation maps were computed using cross-correlation analysis and overlaid on anatomic images. Multislice activation maps were reconstructed and flattened onto a two-dimensional surface. RESULTS: fMRI activation maps showed robust increased activity in the retina-choroid complex after visual stimulation. The average stimulus-evoked fMRI signal increase associated with drifting-grating stimulus was 1.7% +/- 0.5% (P < 10(-4), n = 6) compared with dark. Multislice functional images of the retina flattened onto a two-dimensional surface showed relatively uniform activation. No statistically significant activation was observed in and around the optic nerve head. Hemifield stimulation studies demonstrated that stimuli presented to the upper half of the visual field activated the lower part of the retina, and stimuli presented to the lower half of the visual field activated the upper part of the retina, as expected. Signal changes evoked by the stationary gratings compared with the dark basal condition were positive but were approximately half that evoked by the drifting gratings (1.0% +/- 0.1% versus 2.1% +/- 0.3%, P < 10(-4)). CONCLUSIONS: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first fMRI study of the retina, demonstrating its feasibility in imaging retinal function dynamically in a noninvasive manner and at relatively high spatial resolution.


Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2002 Apr;43(4):1176-81.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Investigative ophthalmology and visual science

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID