The patterns of optic flow seen during self-motion can be used to determine the direction of one's own heading. Tracking eye movements which typically occur during everyday life alter this task since they add further retinal image motion and (predictably) distort the retinal flow pattern. Humans employ both visual and nonvisual (extraretinal) information to solve a heading task in such case. Likewise, it has been shown that neurons in the monkey medial superior temporal area (area MST) use both signals during the processing of self-motion information. In this article we report that neurons in the macaque ventral intraparietal area (area VIP) use visual information derived from the distorted flow patterns to encode heading during (simulated) eye movements. We recorded responses of VIP neurons to simple radial flow fields and to distorted flow fields that simulated self-motion plus eye movements. In 59% of the cases, cell responses compensated for the distortion and kept the same heading selectivity irrespective of different simulated eye movements. In addition, response modulations during real compared with simulated eye movements were smaller, being consistent with reafferent signaling involved in the processing of the visual consequences of eye movements in area VIP. We conclude that the motion selectivities found in area VIP, like those in area MST, provide a way to successfully analyze and use flow fields during self-motion and simultaneous tracking movements.
Keywords: eye movements; parietal cortex; primate; self-motion.
Copyright © 2014 the American Physiological Society.