Gene expression gradients radiating from regions of primary sensory cortices have recently been described and are thought to underlie the large-scale organization of the human cerebral cortex. However, the role of transcription in the functional layout of a single region within the adult brain has yet to be clarified, likely owing to the difficulty of identifying a brain region anatomically consistent enough across individuals with dense enough tissue sampling. Overcoming these hurdles in human primary visual cortex (V1), we show a relationship between differential gene expression and the cortical layout of eccentricity in human V1. Interestingly, these genes are unique from those previously identified that contribute to the positioning of cortical areas in the visual processing hierarchy. Enrichment analyses show that a subset of the identified genes encode for structures related to inhibitory interneurons, ion channels, as well as cellular projections, and are expressed more in foveal compared to peripheral portions of human V1. These findings predict that tissue density should be higher in foveal compared to peripheral V1. Using a histological pipeline, we validate this prediction using Nissl-stained sections of postmortem occipital cortex. We discuss these findings relative to previous studies in non-human primates, as well as in the context of an organizational pattern in which the adult human brain employs transcription gradients at multiple spatial scales: across the cerebral cortex, across areas within processing hierarchies, and within single cortical areas.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Gene expression
- Visual cortex