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J Neurophysiol. 2000 Nov;84(5):2529-40.

Spatiotemporal properties of fast and slow neurons in the pretectal nucleus lentiformis mesencephali in pigeons.

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Department of Psychology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9, Canada.


Neurons in the pretectal nucleus lentiformis mesencephali (LM) are involved in the analysis of optic flow that results from self-motion. Previous studies have shown that LM neurons have large receptive fields in the contralateral eye, are excited in response to largefield stimuli moving in a particular (preferred) direction, and are inhibited in response to motion in the opposite (anti-preferred) direction. We investigated the responses of LM neurons to sine wave gratings of varying spatial and temporal frequency drifting in the preferred and anti-preferred directions. The LM neurons fell into two categories. "Fast" neurons were maximally excited by gratings of low spatial [0.03-0.25 cycles/ degrees (cpd)] and mid-high temporal frequencies (0.5-16 Hz). "Slow" neurons were maximally excited by gratings of high spatial (0.35-2 cpd) and low-mid temporal frequencies (0.125-2 Hz). Of the slow neurons, all but one preferred forward (temporal to nasal) motion. The fast group included neurons that preferred forward, backward, upward, and downward motion. For most cells (81%), the spatial and temporal frequency that elicited maximal excitation to motion in the preferred direction did not coincide with the spatial and temporal frequency that elicited maximal inhibition to gratings moving in the anti-preferred direction. With respect to motion in the anti-preferred direction, a substantial proportion of the LM neurons (32%) showed bi-directional responses. That is, the spatiotemporal plots contained domains of excitation in addition to the region of inhibition. Neurons tuned to stimulus velocity across different spatial frequency were rare (5%), but some neurons (39%) were tuned to temporal frequency. These results are discussed in relation to previous studies of the responses of neurons in the accessory optic system and pretectum to drifting gratings and other largefield stimuli.

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