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J Neurosci. 2007 Mar 7;27(10):2582-91.

Translation speed compensation in the dorsal aspect of the medial superior temporal area.

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Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA.


The dorsal aspect of the medial superior temporal area (MSTd) is involved in the computation of heading direction from the focus of expansion (FOE) of the visual image. Our laboratory previously found that MSTd neurons adjust their focus tuning curves to compensate for shifts in the FOE produced by eye rotation (Bradley et al., 1996) as well as for changes in pursuit speed (Shenoy et al., 2002). The translation speed of an observer also affects the shift of the FOE. To investigate whether MSTd neurons can adjust their focus tuning curves to compensate for varying translation speeds, we recorded extracellular responses from 93 focus-tuned MSTd neurons in two rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) performing pursuit eye movements across displays of varying translation speeds. We found that MSTd neurons had larger shifts in their tuning curves for slow translation speeds and smaller shifts for fast translation speeds. These shifts aligned the focus tuning curves with the true heading direction and not with the retinal position of the FOE. Because the eye was pursuing at the same rate for varying translation speeds, these results indicate that retinal cues related both to translation speed and extraretinal signals from pursuit eye movements are used by MSTd neurons to compute heading direction.

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