Recent studies have described vestibular responses in the dorsal medial superior temporal area (MSTd), a region of extrastriate visual cortex thought to be involved in self-motion perception. The pathways by which vestibular signals are conveyed to area MSTd are currently unclear, and one possibility is that vestibular signals are already present in areas that are known to provide visual inputs to MSTd. Thus, we examined whether selective vestibular responses are exhibited by single neurons in the middle temporal area (MT), a visual motion-sensitive region that projects heavily to area MSTd. We compared responses in MT and MSTd to three-dimensional rotational and translational stimuli that were either presented using a motion platform (vestibular condition) or simulated using optic flow (visual condition). When monkeys fixated a visual target generated by a projector, half of MT cells (and most MSTd neurons) showed significant tuning during the vestibular rotation condition. However, when the fixation target was generated by a laser in a dark room, most MT neurons lost their vestibular tuning whereas most MSTd neurons retained their selectivity. Similar results were obtained for free viewing in darkness. Our findings indicate that MT neurons do not show genuine vestibular responses to self-motion; rather, their tuning in the vestibular rotation condition can be explained by retinal slip due to a residual vestibulo-ocular reflex. Thus, the robust vestibular signals observed in area MSTd do not arise through inputs from area MT.
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