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J Neurophysiol. 2004 Jan;91(1):286-300. Epub 2003 Oct 1.

Activity of neurons in cortical area MT during a memory for motion task.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy and Center for Visual Science, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York 14642, USA.


We recorded the activity of middle temporal (MT) neurons in 2 monkeys while they compared the directions of motion in 2 sequentially presented random-dot stimuli, sample and test, and reported them as the same or different by pressing one of 2 buttons. We found that MT neurons were active not only in response to the sample and test stimuli but also during the 1,500-ms delay separating them. Most neurons showed a characteristic pattern of activity consisting of a small burst of firing early in the delay, followed by a period of suppression and a subsequent increase in firing rate immediately preceding the presentation of the test stimulus. In a third of the neurons, the activity early in the delay not only reflected the direction of the sample stimulus, but was also related to the range of local directions it contained. During the middle of the delay the majority of neurons were suppressed, consistent with a gating mechanism that could be used to ignore task-irrelevant stimuli. Late in the delay, most neurons showed an increase in response, probably in anticipation of the upcoming test. Throughout most of the delay there was a directional signal in the population of MT neurons, manifested by higher firing rates following the sample moving in the antipreferred direction. Whereas some of these effects may be related to sensory adaptation, others are more likely to represent a more active task-related process. These results support the hypothesis that MT neurons actively participate in the successful execution of all aspects of the task requiring processing and remembering visual motion.

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