Binocular spatial phase tuning characteristics of neurons in the macaque striate cortex

J Neurophysiol. 1997 Jul;78(1):351-65. doi: 10.1152/jn.1997.78.1.351.


We employed microelectrode recording techniques to study the sensitivity of individual neurons in the striate cortex of anesthetized and paralyzed monkeys to relative interocular image disparities and to determine the effects of basic stimulus parameters on these cortical binocular interactions. The visual stimuli were drifting sine wave gratings. After the optimal stimulus orientation, spatial frequency, and direction of stimulus movement were found, the cells' disparity tuning characteristics were determined by measuring responses as a function of the relative interocular spatial phase of dichoptic grating pairs. No attempts were made to assess absolute position disparities or horizontal disparities relative to the horopter. The majority (approximately 70%) of simple cells were highly sensitive to interocular spatial phase disparities, particularly neurons with balanced ocular dominances. Simple cells typically demonstrated binocular facilitation at the optimal phase disparity and binocular suppression for disparities 180 degrees away. Fewer complex cells were phase selective (approximately 40%); however, the range of disparity selectivity in phase-sensitive complex cells was comparable with that for simple cells. Binocular interactions in non-phase-sensitive complex cells were evidenced by binocular response amplitudes that differed from responses to monocular stimulation. The degree of disparity tuning was independent of a cell's optimal orientation or the degree of direction tuning. However, disparity-sensitive cells tended to have narrow orientation tuning functions and the degree of disparity tuning was greatest for the optimal stimulus orientations. Rotating the stimulus for one eye 90 degrees from the optimal orientation usually eliminated binocular interactions. The effects of phase disparities on the binocular response amplitude were also greatest at the optimal spatial frequency. Thus a cell's sensitivity to absolute position disparities reflects its spatial tuning characteristics, with cells sensitive to high spatial frequencies being capable of signaling very small changes in image disparity. On the other hand, stimulus contrast had relatively little effect on a cell's disparity tuning, because response saturation occurred at the same contrast level for all relative interocular phase disparities. Thus, as with orientation tuning, a cell's optimal disparity and the degree of disparity selectivity were invariant with contrast. Overall, the results show that sensitivity to interocular spatial phase disparities is a common property of striate neurons. A cell's disparity tuning characteristics appear to largely reflect its monocular receptive field properties and the interocular balance between excitatory and inhibitory inputs. However, distinct functional classes of cortical neurons could not be discriminated on the basis of disparity sensitivity alone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Microelectrodes
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Vision Disparity / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*