Spontaneously emerging patterns in human visual cortex reflect responses to naturalistic sensory stimuli

Meytal Wilf, Francesca Strappini, Tal Golan, Avital Hahamy, Michal Harel, Rafael Malach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


In the absence of stimulus or task, the cortex spontaneously generates rich and consistent functional connectivity patterns (termed resting state networks) which are evident even within individual cortical areas. We and others have previously hypothesized that habitual cortical network activations during daily life contribute to the shaping of these connectivity patterns. Here we tested this hypothesis by comparing, using blood oxygen level-dependent-functional magnetic resonance imaging, the connectivity patterns that spontaneously emerge during rest in retinotopic visual areas to the patterns generated by naturalistic visual stimuli (repeated movie segments). These were then compared with connectivity patterns produced by more standard retinotopic mapping stimuli (polar and eccentricity mapping). Our results reveal that the movie-driven patterns were significantly more similar to the spontaneously emerging patterns, compared with the connectivity patterns of either eccentricity or polar mapping stimuli. Intentional visual imagery of naturalistic stimuli was unlikely to underlie these results, since they were duplicated when participants were engaged in an auditory task. Our results suggest that the connectivity patterns that appear during rest better reflect naturalistic activations rather than controlled, artificially designed stimuli. The results are compatible with the hypothesis that the spontaneous connectivity patterns in human retinotopic areas reflect the statistics of cortical coactivations during natural vision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)750-763
Number of pages14
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Beep detection
  • FMRI
  • Movie
  • Resting state
  • Retinotopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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