Analysis of motion of the visual field by direction, expansion/contraction, and rotation cells clustered in the dorsal part of the medial superior temporal area of the macaque monkey

J Neurophysiol. 1989 Sep;62(3):626-41. doi: 10.1152/jn.1989.62.3.626.


1. The dorsal part of the medial superior temporal area (MST) is characterized by clusters of three types of visually responsive cells: Direction cells, which respond to a straight frontoparallel movement in a particular direction; Expansion/contraction cells, which selectively respond to either an expansion or contraction; and Rotation cells, which selectively respond to either a clockwise or counterclockwise rotation. To study their functional role, experiments were carried out on immobilized monkeys, anesthetized with N2O. 2. The areal extent of stimulation was crucial for activation: movements of a pattern extending over a wide visual field elicited a larger response than those elicited by a local pattern. 3. The shape, exact size, and sign of contrast of the texture components of the pattern were not important in determining the magnitude of response. 4. Different cells responded to different ranges of speed of movement. 5. Expansion/contraction cells were activated more strongly by a real (isotropic) expansion/contraction than by an "axial expansion/contraction" in which a pattern expanded or contracted along a particular axis. Rotation cells were activated more strongly by a circular rotation in the frontoparallel plane than by a shearing movement. 6. We discuss the possibility that the cells are involved in the detection and analysis of wide-field movements, which are generally caused by a movement of the animal itself. The mode (straight transfer, expansion/contraction, or rotation), direction, and speed of the relative movement of the animal and the external space may be represented by the activity of the cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Macaca
  • Motion*
  • Movement
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Fields*