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J Neurosci. 2011 Aug 17;31(33):12036-52. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0395-11.2011.

Representation of vestibular and visual cues to self-motion in ventral intraparietal cortex.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Convergence of vestibular and visual motion information is important for self-motion perception. One cortical area that combines vestibular and optic flow signals is the ventral intraparietal area (VIP). We characterized unisensory and multisensory responses of macaque VIP neurons to translations and rotations in three dimensions. Approximately one-half of VIP cells show significant directional selectivity in response to optic flow, one-half show tuning to vestibular stimuli, and one-third show multisensory responses. Visual and vestibular direction preferences of multisensory VIP neurons could be congruent or opposite. When visual and vestibular stimuli were combined, VIP responses could be dominated by either input, unlike the medial superior temporal area (MSTd) where optic flow tuning typically dominates or the visual posterior sylvian area (VPS) where vestibular tuning dominates. Optic flow selectivity in VIP was weaker than in MSTd but stronger than in VPS. In contrast, vestibular tuning for translation was strongest in VPS, intermediate in VIP, and weakest in MSTd. To characterize response dynamics, direction-time data were fit with a spatiotemporal model in which temporal responses were modeled as weighted sums of velocity, acceleration, and position components. Vestibular responses in VIP reflected balanced contributions of velocity and acceleration, whereas visual responses were dominated by velocity. Timing of vestibular responses in VIP was significantly faster than in MSTd, whereas timing of optic flow responses did not differ significantly among areas. These findings suggest that VIP may be proximal to MSTd in terms of vestibular processing but hierarchically similar to MSTd in terms of optic flow processing.

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