A causal role for V5/MT neurons coding motion-disparity conjunctions in resolving perceptual ambiguity

Curr Biol. 2013 Aug 5;23(15):1454-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.06.023. Epub 2013 Jul 18.


Judgments about the perceptual appearance of visual objects require the combination of multiple parameters, like location, direction, color, speed, and depth. Our understanding of perceptual judgments has been greatly informed by studies of ambiguous figures, which take on different appearances depending upon the brain state of the observer. Here we probe the neural mechanisms hypothesized as responsible for judging the apparent direction of rotation of ambiguous structure from motion (SFM) stimuli. Resolving the rotation direction of SFM cylinders requires the conjoint decoding of direction of motion and binocular depth signals [1, 2]. Within cortical visual area V5/MT of two macaque monkeys, we applied electrical stimulation at sites with consistent multiunit tuning to combinations of binocular depth and direction of motion, while the monkey made perceptual decisions about the rotation of SFM stimuli. For both ambiguous and unambiguous SFM figures, rotation judgments shifted as if we had added a specific conjunction of disparity and motion signals to the stimulus elements. This is the first causal demonstration that the activity of neurons in V5/MT contributes directly to the perception of SFM stimuli and by implication to decoding the specific conjunction of disparity and motion, the two different visual cues whose combination drives the perceptual judgment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Rotation
  • Vision Disparity