The ventral intraparietal area (VIP) is a multimodal parietal area, where visual responses are brisk, directional, and typically selective for complex optic flow patterns. VIP thus could provide signals useful for visual estimation of heading (self-motion direction). A central problem in heading estimation is how observers compensate for eye velocity, which distorts the retinal motion cues upon which perception depends. To find out if VIP could be useful for heading, we measured its responses to simulated trajectories, both with and without eye movements. Our results showed that most VIP neurons very strongly signal heading direction. Furthermore, the tuning of most VIP neurons was remarkably stable in the presence of eye movements. This stability was such that the population of VIP neurons represented heading very nearly in head-centered coordinates. This makes VIP the most robust source of such signals yet described, with properties ideal for supporting perception.
Copyright 2004 Cell Press