Functional properties of neurons in middle temporal visual area of the macaque monkey. I. Selectivity for stimulus direction, speed, and orientation

J. H.R. Maunsell, D. C. Van Essen

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Recordings were made from single units in the middle temporal visual area (MT) of anesthetized, paralyzed macaque monkeys. A computer-driven stimulator was used to make quantitative tests of selectivity for stimulus direction, speed, and orientation. The data were taken from 168 units that were histologically identified as being in MT. The results confirm previous reports of a high degree of direction selectivity in MT. The response above background to stimuli moving in a unit's preferred direction was, on average, 10.9 times that to stimuli moving in the opposite direction. There was a marked tendency for nearby units to have similar preferred directions. Most units were also sharply tuned for the speed of stimulus motion. For some cells the response fell to less than half-maximal at speeds only a factor of two from the optimum; on average, responses were greater than half-maximal only over a 7.7-fold range of speed. The distribution of preferred speeds for different units was unimodal, with a peak near 32°/s; the total range of preferred speeds extended from 2 to 256°/s. Nearby units generally responded best to similar speeds of motion. Most units in MT showed selectivity for stimulus orientation when tested with stationary, flashed bars. However, stationary stimuli generally elicited only brief responses; when averaged over the duration of the stimulus, the responses were much less than those to moving stimuli. The preferred orientation was usually, but not always, perpendicular to the preferred direction of movement. A comparison of the results of the present study with a previous quantitative investigation in the owl monkey shows a striking similarity in response properties in MT of the two species. The presence of both direction and speed selectivity in MT of the macaque suggests that this area is more specialized for the analysis of visual motion than has been previously recognized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1127-1147
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1983


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