Signals from the two eyes are first integrated in primary visual cortex (V1). In many mammals, this binocular integration is an important first step in the development of stereopsis, the perception of depth from disparity. Neurons in the binocular zone of mouse V1 receive inputs from both eyes, but it is unclear how that binocular information is integrated and whether this integration has a function similar to that found in other mammals. Using extracellular recordings, we demonstrate that mouse V1 neurons are tuned for binocular disparities, or spatial differences, between the inputs from each eye, thus extracting signals potentially useful for estimating depth. The disparities encoded by mouse V1 are significantly larger than those encoded by cat and primate. Interestingly, these larger disparities correspond to distances that are likely to be ecologically relevant in natural viewing, given the stereo-geometry of the mouse visual system. Across mammalian species, it appears that binocular integration is a common cortical computation used to extract information relevant for estimating depth. As such, it is a prime example of how the integration of multiple sensory signals is used to generate accurate estimates of properties in our environment.
Keywords: disparity tuning; mouse binocularity; ocular dominance; primary visual cortex.