August 2023
Volume 23, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2023
Evidence that noise in human visual cortex encodes naturalistic visual representations
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Thomas Naselaris
    University of Minnesota
  • Ghislain St-Yves
    University of Minnesota
  • Kendick Kay
    University of Minnesota
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  NSF CRCNS grants IIS-1822683 and IIS-1822929
Journal of Vision August 2023, Vol.23, 5960. doi:
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      Thomas Naselaris, Ghislain St-Yves, Kendick Kay; Evidence that noise in human visual cortex encodes naturalistic visual representations. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):5960.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Trial-to-trial response variability – generally referred to as “noise” – is pervasive in the visual system. Although it has long been known that in the human brain noise is correlated across voxels, the structure of noise correlations is not fully understood. In particular, it is not known if noise correlations have the same structure as signal correlations. To address this question, we used the massive 7T fMRI Natural Scenes Dataset to characterize signal and noise in multiple visual areas. We find that voxel-to-voxel correlation structure in noise is well aligned with voxel- to-voxel correlation structure in signals evoked by natural scenes. This finding generalizes to correlation structure observed in spontaneous activity during rest (viewing a blank screen). Importantly, we find that noise correlations do not match the correlation structure in signals evoked by artificial stimuli. These results suggest that noise in the visual system encodes naturalistic visual representations that are not directly related to the current visual input. We speculate that variation in these putative visual representations is driven by ongoing cognitive processing.


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