Reference frames are important for understanding sensory processing in the cortex. Previous work showed that vestibular heading signals in the ventral intraparietal area (VIP) are represented in body-centered coordinates. In contrast, vestibular heading tuning in the medial superior temporal area (MSTd) is approximately head centered. We considered the hypothesis that visual heading signals (from optic flow) in VIP might also be transformed into a body-centered representation, unlike visual heading tuning in MSTd, which is approximately eye centered. We distinguished among eye-centered, head-centered, and body-centered spatial reference frames by systematically varying both eye and head positions while rhesus monkeys viewed optic flow stimuli depicting various headings. We found that heading tuning of VIP neurons based on optic flow generally shifted with eye position, indicating an eye-centered spatial reference frame. This is similar to the representation of visual heading signals in MSTd, but contrasts sharply with the body-centered representation of vestibular heading signals in VIP. These findings demonstrate a clear dissociation between the spatial reference frames of visual and vestibular signals in VIP, and emphasize that frames of reference for neurons in parietal cortex can depend on the type of sensory stimulation.
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