Image identification from brain activity using the population receptive field model

Wietske Zuiderbaan, Ben M. Harvey, Serge O Dumoulin

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
109 Downloads (Pure)


A goal of computational models is not only to explain experimental data but also to make new predictions. A current focus of computational neuroimaging is to predict features of the presented stimulus from measured brain signals. These computational neuroimaging approaches may be agnostic about the underlying neural processes or may be biologically inspired. Here, we use the biologically inspired population receptive field (pRF) approach to identify presented images from fMRI recordings of the visual cortex, using an explicit model of the underlying neural response selectivity. The advantage of the pRF-model is its simplicity: it is defined by a handful of parameters, which can be estimated from fMRI data that was collected within half an hour. Using 7T MRI, we measured responses elicited by different visual stimuli: (i) conventional pRF mapping stimuli, (ii) semi-random synthetic images and (iii) natural images. The pRF mapping stimuli were used to estimate the pRF-properties of each cortical location in early visual cortex. Next, we used these pRFs to identify which synthetic or natural images was presented to the subject from the fMRI responses. We show that image identification using V1 responses is far above chance, both for the synthetic and natural images. Thus, we can identify visual images, including natural images, using the most fundamental low-parameter pRF model estimated from conventional pRF mapping stimuli. This allows broader application of image identification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0183295
JournalPLoS One
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Journal Article


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