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A functional link between area MSTd and heading perception based on vestibular signals

Summary: A functional link between area MSTd and heading
perception based on vestibular signals
Yong Gu1, Gregory C DeAngelis1,2 & Dora E Angelaki1,2
Recent findings of vestibular responses in part of the visual cortex--the dorsal medial superior temporal area (MSTd)--indicate
that vestibular signals might contribute to cortical processes that mediate the perception of self-motion. We tested this hypothesis
in monkeys trained to perform a fine heading discrimination task solely on the basis of inertial motion cues. The sensitivity of
the neuronal responses was typically lower than that of psychophysical performance, and only the most sensitive neurons rivaled
behavioral performance. Responses recorded in MSTd were significantly correlated with perceptual decisions, and the correlations
were strongest for the most sensitive neurons. These results support a functional link between MSTd and heading perception
based on inertial motion cues. These cues seem mainly to be of vestibular origin, as labyrinthectomy produced a marked elevation
of psychophysical thresholds and abolished MSTd responses. This study provides evidence that links single-unit activity to spatial
perception mediated by vestibular signals, and supports the idea that the role of MSTd in self-motion perception extends beyond
optic flow processing.
The vestibular apparatus provides sensory information about the
angular velocity of the head (from the semicircular canals) and about
its linear acceleration (from the otolith organs)1,2. Lesion studies have
shown that vestibular signals are crucial for several reflexive processes,
including compensatory eye movements (the vestibulo-ocular reflex
or VOR)3,4, maintenance of balance, and control of posture5. The
neural circuits that mediate these automatic processes--especially the


Source: Angelaki, Dora - Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University in St. Louis


Collections: Biology and Medicine