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Dynamics of motion signaling by neurons in macaque area MT


Most neurons in macaque area MT are selective for the direction of stimulus motion. By comparing direction selectivity for gratings and plaids, we classified MT neurons as pattern direction selective (PDS) or component direction selective (CDS). We compared the time course of responses in CDS and PDS neurons in opiate-anesthetized macaques, using a rapid pseudorandom sequence of gratings and plaids that moved in different directions. On average, responses began 6 ms earlier in CDS neurons than in PDS neurons. More importantly, the pattern-selective responses of PDS neurons did not reach their fully selective state until 50–75 ms after the responses of CDS neurons had stabilized. The population motion response of MT is therefore initially dominated by component motion signals, and does not completely represent pattern motion until substantially later. The circuits that compute pattern motion take more time to finish their work than those signaling component motion.

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Figure 1: MT stimulus and response.
Figure 2: Three types of responses to plaids and gratings.
Figure 3: Pattern and component direction selectivity.
Figure 4: Response latency for pattern, component and unclassed cells.
Figure 5: Scatter plot of Z-scores over time in sliding or cumulative windows.
Figure 6: Line plots showing the evolution of Z-correlation values over time.


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This work was supported by a research grant from the NIH (EY02017), and by an HHMI Investigatorship to J.A.M. M.A.S. was supported in part by a National Eye Institute Institutional Training Grant (T32-7136). We thank A. Kohn, N. Rust and S. Schultz for assistance with some of the data collection, R. Young for technical assistance, and M. Hou and N. Doron for help with histology. We are grateful to W. Bair and A. Kohn for helpful advice and discussion.

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Correspondence to J Anthony Movshon.

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Smith, M., Majaj, N. & Movshon, J. Dynamics of motion signaling by neurons in macaque area MT. Nat Neurosci 8, 220–228 (2005).

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