The colorful representation of orientation preference maps in primary visual cortex has become iconic. However, the standard representation is misleading because it uses a color mapping to indicate orientations based on the HSV (hue, saturation, value) color space, for which important perceptual features such as brightness, and not just hue, vary among orientations. This means that some orientations stand out more than others, conveying a distorted visual impression. This is particularly problematic for visualizing subtle biases caused by slight overrepresentation of some orientations due to, for example, stripe rearing. We show that displaying orientation maps with a color mapping based on a slightly modified version of the HCL (hue, chroma, lightness) color space, so that primarily only hue varies between orientations, leads to a more balanced visual impression. This makes it easier to perceive the true structure of this seminal example of functional brain architecture.

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