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Speed skills: measuring the visual speed analyzing properties of primate MT neurons

Abstract

Knowing the direction and speed of moving objects is often critical for survival. However, it is poorly understood how cortical neurons process the speed of image movement. Here we tested MT neurons using moving sine-wave gratings of different spatial and temporal frequencies, and mapped out the neurons' spatiotemporal frequency response profiles. The maps typically had oriented ridges of peak sensitivity as expected for speed-tuned neurons. The preferred speed estimate, derived from the orientation of the maps, corresponded well to the preferred speed when moving bars were presented. Thus, our data demonstrate that MT neurons are truly sensitive to the object speed. These findings indicate that MT is not only a key structure in the analysis of direction of motion and depth perception, but also in the analysis of object speed.

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Figure 1: Representation of a moving edge in the spatiotemporal frequency domain.
Figure 2: Data from four representative MT neurons in our sample.
Figure 3: Example of Gaussian fitting procedure.
Figure 4: Contribution of the orientation parameter (θ) to the two-dimensional Gaussian-MT data fits.
Figure 5: Test of the oriented two-dimensional Gaussian alignment.
Figure 6: Relationship between the spectral receptive field orientation of representative MT neurons and their preferred speed tuning obtained from moving bar tests (see Methods).
Figure 7: Prediction of the spectral receptive field orientation of MT neurons from their optimum speed tuning, obtained using a moving bar.

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Acknowledgements

We thank K. Dobkins, R. Krauzlis and G. Stoner for their comments, and J. Costanza and K. Sevenbergen for technical assistance. This work was supported by NASA grant NAG 2-1168 to J.P. and a Human Frontier Science Program fellowship to A.T. Some of the research reported in this paper was done during tenure by J.P. as a Sloan Visiting Scientist at the Salk Institute.

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Correspondence to John A. Perrone.

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Perrone, J., Thiele, A. Speed skills: measuring the visual speed analyzing properties of primate MT neurons. Nat Neurosci 4, 526–532 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/87480

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