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Exp Brain Res. 2012 Aug;221(2):177-89. doi: 10.1007/s00221-012-3159-8. Epub 2012 Jul 19.

Interaction of cortical networks mediating object motion detection by moving observers.

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Brain and Vision Research Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA.


The task of parceling perceived visual motion into self- and object motion components is critical to safe and accurate visually guided navigation. In this paper, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine the cortical areas functionally active in this task and the pattern connectivity among them to investigate the cortical regions of interest and networks that allow subjects to detect object motion separately from induced self-motion. Subjects were presented with nine textured objects during simulated forward self-motion and were asked to identify the target object, which had an additional, independent motion component toward or away from the observer. Cortical activation was distributed among occipital, intra-parietal and fronto-parietal areas. We performed a network analysis of connectivity data derived from partial correlation and multivariate Granger causality analyses among functionally active areas. This revealed four coarsely separated network clusters: bilateral V1 and V2; visually responsive occipito-temporal areas, including bilateral LO, V3A, KO (V3B) and hMT; bilateral VIP, DIPSM and right precuneus; and a cluster of higher, primarily left hemispheric regions, including the central sulcus, post-, pre- and sub-central sulci, pre-central gyrus, and FEF. We suggest that the visually responsive networks are involved in forming the representation of the visual stimulus, while the higher, left hemisphere cluster is involved in mediating the interpretation of the stimulus for action. Our main focus was on the relationships of activations during our task among the visually responsive areas. To determine the properties of the mechanism corresponding to the visual processing networks, we compared subjects' psychophysical performance to a model of object motion detection based solely on relative motion among objects and found that it was inconsistent with observer performance. Our results support the use of scene context (e.g., eccentricity, depth) in the detection of object motion. We suggest that the cortical activation and visually responsive networks provide a potential substrate for this computation.

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