Author(s): Roy JP, Komatsu H, Wurtz RH
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Abstract We tested the disparity sensitivity of neurons from the medial superior temporal area (MST) in awake behaving monkeys. While the monkey looked at a fixation spot on a screen in front of it, random dot stimuli moved in the preferred direction of the cell under study, and the disparity of the dots made the stimuli appear to move in a frontoparallel plane in front of, on, or behind the screen. Over 90\% of the 272 neurons studied were sensitive to the disparity of the visual stimulus. Of those disparity-sensitive cells, 95\% were most responsive either to near stimuli (stimuli with crossed disparities appearing to move in front of the screen) or to far stimuli (stimuli with uncrossed disparities appearing to move behind the screen). In a smaller sample of the disparity-sensitive cells, we found cells whose preferred direction of stimulus motion reversed as the disparity of the stimulus reversed. For example, a cell that responded best to rightward motion for near stimuli responded best to leftward motion for far stimuli. We found that 40\% of the disparity-sensitive cells had this disparity-dependent direction selectivity. This disparity-dependent direction selectivity was maintained over the entire range of speeds tested (6-56 degrees/sec). We tested whether the disparity sensitivity of the neurons indicated the distance of the stimulus from the screen where the monkey was fixating (relative depth) or the distance of the stimulus from the monkey (absolute depth) by having the monkey fixate at different depths in front of or behind the screen. For most MST neurons, the changes in vergence did not alter the disparity response, indicating that the disparity sensitivity of these neurons conveyed information on depth relative to the plane of fixation. We conclude that the disparity characteristics of cells in the dorsomedial MST are those expected of a system serving primarily coarse rather than fine stereopsis. The correlation between disparity selectivity and direction selectivity in these neurons, as well as their other properties, suggests a role in signaling the direction of self-motion of the observer through the environment.
This article was published in J Neurosci
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology