Cortical processing of second-order motion

Vis Neurosci. May-Jun 1999;16(3):527-40. doi: 10.1017/s0952523899163132.


Neurons in the mammalian visual cortex have been found to respond to second-order features which are not defined by changes in luminance over the retina (Albright, 1992; Zhou & Baker, 1993, 1994, 1996; Mareschal & Baker, 1998a,b). The detection of these stimuli is most often accounted for by a separate nonlinear processing stream, acting in parallel to the linear stream in the visual system. Here we examine the two-dimensional spatial properties of these nonlinear neurons in area 18 using envelope stimuli, which consist of a high spatial-frequency carrier whose contrast is modulated by a low spatial-frequency envelope. These stimuli would fail to elicit a response in a conventional linear neuron because they are designed to contain no spatial-frequency components overlapping the neuron's luminance defined passband. We measured neurons' responses to these stimuli as a function of both the relative spatial frequencies and relative orientations of the carrier and envelope. Neurons' responses to envelope stimuli were narrowband to the carrier spatial frequency, with optimal values ranging from 8- to 30-fold higher than the envelope spatial frequencies. Neurons' responses to the envelope stimuli were strongly dependent on the orientation of the envelope and less so on the orientation of the carrier. Although the selectivity to the carrier orientation was broader, neurons' responses were clearly tuned, suggesting that the source of nonlinear input is cortical. There was no fixed relationship between the optimal carrier and envelope spatial frequencies or orientations, such that nonlinear neurons responding to these stimuli could perhaps respond to a variety of stimuli defined by changes in scale or orientation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Motion*
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychophysics
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*