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Occipital Lobe

The occipital lobe is the visual processing center of the mammalian brain containing most of the anatomical region of the visual cortex. The primary visual cortex is Brodmann area 17, commonly called V1. Human V1 is located on the medial side of the occipital lobe within the calcarine sulcus; the full extent of V1 often continues onto the posterior pole of the occipital lobe. V1 is often also called striate cortex because it can be identified by a large stripe of myelin, the Stria of Gennari. Visually driven regions outside V1 are called extrastriate cortex. There are many extrastriate regions, and these are specialized for different visual tasks, such as visuospatial processing, color discrimination and motion perception. The name derives from the overlying occipital bone, which is named from the Latin oc- + caput, "back of the head". A significant functional aspect of the occipital lobe is that it contains the primary visual cortex. Retinal sensors convey stimuli through the optic tracts to the lateral geniculate bodies, where optic radiations continue to the visual cortex. Each visual cortex receives raw sensory information from the outside half of the retina on the same side of the head and from the inside half of the retina on the other side of the head. The cuneus receives visual information from the contralateral superior retina representing the inferior visual field. The lingula receives information from the contralateral inferior retina representing the superior visual field. The retinal inputs pass through a "way station" in the lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus before projecting to the cortex. Cells on the posterior aspect of the occipital lobes' gray matter are arranged as a spatial map of the retinal field. Functional neuroimaging reveals similar patterns of response in cortical tissue of the lobes when the retinal fields are exposed to a strong pattern. If one occipital lobe is damaged, the result can be homonomous vision loss from similarly positioned "field cuts" in each eye. Occipital lesions can cause visual hallucinations. Lesions in the parietal-temporal-occipital association area are associated with color agnosia, movement agnosia, and agraphia. Damage to the primary visual cortex which is located on the surface of the posterior occipital lobe, can cause blindness due to the holes in the visual map on the surface of the visual cortex that resulted from the lesions.