Structural asymmetry of cortical visual areas is related to ocular dominance

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Abstract

The grey matter of the human brain is asymmetrically distributed between the cerebral hemispheres. This asymmetry includes visual areas, but its relevance to visual function is not understood. Voxel-based morphometry is a well-established technique for localization and quantification of cerebral grey matter on the basis of MR images. This method has been used previously for interhemispheric comparison, but without examining the functional implications of the identified anatomical asymmetries of the visual system. The aim of the present study was to relate anatomical interhemispheric asymmetries to asymmetries of visual function. We examined grey matter asymmetries of visual areas in a large population (n=56) of ophthalmologically and neurologically healthy individuals. We used state-of-the-art 3 T MRI and voxel-based morphometry to relate the visual parameters, (a) ocular dominance, (b) interocular difference in visual acuity and (c) visual attention (i.e. deviation on a line-bisection task), to interhemispheric differences in grey matter volume. As most visual input from one eye is processed in the contralateral hemisphere, ocular features may also depend on cerebral lateralization. Several lateralized visual areas were identified, both right>left and left>right. When correlating the asymmetries to the functional parameters, we found a significant correlation to ocular dominance (P<0.05), whereas visual acuity and visual attention showed no such relationship. The lateral occipital complex was identified to be significantly larger in the left hemisphere for right-eyed participants and vice versa. These results suggest a cerebral basis for ocular dominance.

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