Lesion studies argue for an involvement of cortical area dorsal medial superior temporal area (MSTd) in the control of optokinetic response (OKR) eye movements to planar visual stimulation. Neural recordings during OKR suggested that MSTd neurons directly encode stimulus velocity. On the other hand, studies using radial visual flow together with voluntary smooth pursuit eye movements showed that visual motion responses were modulated by eye movement-related signals. Here, we investigated neural responses in MSTd during continuous optokinetic stimulation using an information-theoretic approach for characterizing neural tuning with high resolution. We show that the majority of MSTd neurons exhibit gain-field-like tuning functions rather than directly encoding one variable. Neural responses showed a large diversity of tuning to combinations of retinal and extraretinal input. Eye velocity-related activity was observed prior to the actual eye movements, reflecting an efference copy. The observed tuning functions resembled those emerging in a network model trained to perform summation of 2 population-coded signals. Together, our findings support the hypothesis that MSTd implements the visuomotor transformation from retinal to head-centered stimulus velocity signals for the control of OKR.
Keywords: coordinate transformation; information theory; optokinetic nystagmus; parietal cortex; tuning function.
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