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Vis Neurosci. 1998 Jul-Aug;15(4):779-86.

The influence of fixational eye movements on the response of neurons in area MT of the macaque.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York 10003, USA.


We analyzed the relationship between eye movements and neuronal responses recorded from area MT in alert monkeys trained to maintain visual fixation during the presentation of moving patterns. The monkeys made small saccades which moved the eyes with velocities that spanned the sensitivity range of MT neurons. The saccades evoked changes in the neuronal response that depended upon (1) the level of stimulus-evoked activity amidst which the saccade occurred and (2) the direction of the saccade relative to the preferred direction of the neuron. Most notably, saccades were able to suppress stimulus-evoked activity when they caused retinal image flow that opposed the neuron's preference and were able to elicit a response or enhance weak activity when they caused flow in the neuron's preferred direction. On average, the disturbance lasted 40 ms beginning about 40 ms following saccade onset. Using these parameters, we simulated synthetic spike trains from an imaginary pair of similarly tuned neurons and determined that the interneuronal correlation due to saccades should be negligible at all but the lowest ongoing firing rates. This conclusion was supported from our data by the observation that response variance for single MT spike trains was not measurably reduced during periods of stable gaze compared to periods when eye movement exceeded a stability criterion (0.1 deg during 0.5 s). While the intrusions caused by saccades are too short-lived and infrequent to account for the variability of MT neuronal response (counter to the finding in V1 of Gur et al., 1997), the clear directional signal that they carry in area MT suggests that motion perception is not blocked during saccades by suppression at early stages in the visual pathway.

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