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Eur J Neurosci. 2002 Oct;16(8):1554-68.

Heading encoding in the macaque ventral intraparietal area (VIP).

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Laboratoire de Physiologie de la Perception et de l'Action, CNRS-Coll├Ęge de France, 11 place Marcelin Berthelot, F-75231 Paris Cedex 05, France.


We recorded neuronal responses to optic flow stimuli in the ventral intraparietal area (VIP) of two awake macaque monkeys. According to previous studies on optic flow responses in monkey extrastriate cortex we used different stimulus classes: frontoparallel motion, radial stimuli (expansion and contraction) and rotational stimuli (clockwise and counter-clockwise). Seventy-five percent of the cells showed statistically significant responses to one or more of these optic flow stimuli. Shifting the location of the singularity of the optic flow stimuli within the visual field led to a response modulation in almost all cases. For the majority of neurons, this modulatory influence could be approximated in a statistically significant manner by a two-dimensional linear regression. Gradient directions, derived from the regression parameters and indicating the direction of the steepest increase in the responses, were uniformly distributed. At the population level, an unbiased average response for the stimuli with different focus locations was observed. By applying a population code, termed 'isofrequency encoding', we demonstrate the capability of the recorded neuronal ensemble to retrieve the focus location from its population discharge. Responses to expansion and contraction stimuli cannot be predicted based on quantitative data on a neuron's frontoparallel preferred stimulus direction and the location and size of its receptive field. These results, taken together with data on polymodal motion responses in this area, suggest an involvement of area VIP in the analysis and the encoding of heading.

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