Visual motion neurons in the posterior parietal cortex play a critical role in the guidance of smooth pursuit eye movements. Initial pursuit (open-loop period) is driven, in part, by visual motion signals from cortical areas, such as the medial superior temporal area (MST). The purpose of this study was to determine whether adaptation of initial pursuit gain arises because of altered visual sensitivity of neurons at the cortical level. It is well known that the visual motion response in MST is suppressed after exposure to a large-field visual motion stimulus, showing visual motion adaptation. One hypothesis is that foveal motion responses in MST are associated with smooth pursuit adaptation using a small target spot. We used a step-ramp tracking task with two steps of target velocity (double-step paradigm), which induces gain-down or gain-up adaptation. We found that after gain-down adaptation 58% of our MST visual neurons showed a significant decrease in firing rate. This was the case even though visual motion input (before the pursuit onset) from target motion was constant. Therefore, repetitive visual stimulation during the gain-down paradigm could lead to adaptive changes in the visual response. However, the time course of adaptation did not show a correlation between the visual response and pursuit behavior. These results indicate that the visual response in MST may not directly contribute to the adaptive change in pursuit initiation.
Keywords: cerebral cortex; eye movements; plasticity; rhesus macaque; visual response.
Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society.