In patients with central visual field scotomata a large part of visual cortex is not adequately stimulated. We investigated evidence for possible upregulation in cortical responses in 22 patients (8 females, 14 males; mean age 41.5 years, range 12–65 years) with central visual field loss due to hereditary retinal dystrophies (Stargardt's disease, other forms of hereditary macular dystrophies and cone-rod dystrophy) and compared their results to those of 22 age-matched controls (11 females, 11 males; mean age, 42.4 years, range, 13–70 years). Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) we recorded differences in behavioral and BOLD signal distribution in retinotopic mapping and visual search tasks. Patients with an established preferred retinal locus (PRL) exhibited significantly higher activation in early visual cortex during the visual search task, especially on trials when the target stimuli fell in the vicinity of the PRL. Compared with those with less stable fixation, patients with stable eccentric fixation at the PRL exhibited greater performance levels and more brain activation. Hum Brain Mapp 34:2607–2623, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.