Neural mechanisms of speed perception: transparent motion

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    Visual motion on the macaque retina is processed by direction- and speed-selective neurons in extrastriate middle temporal cortex (MT). There is strong evidence for a link between the activity of these neurons and direction perception. However, there is conflicting evidence for a link between speed selectivity of MT neurons and speed perception. Here we study this relationship by using a strong perceptual illusion in speed perception: when two transparently superimposed dot patterns move in opposite directions, their apparent speed is much larger than the perceived speed of a single pattern moving at that physical speed. Moreover, the sensitivity for speed discrimination is reduced for such bidirectional patterns. We first confirmed these behavioral findings in human subjects and extended them to a monkey subject. Second, we determined speed tuning curves of MT neurons to bidirectional motion and compared these to speed tuning curves for unidirectional motion. Consistent with previous reports, the response to bidirectional motion was often reduced compared with unidirectional motion at the preferred speed. In addition, we found that tuning curves for bidirectional motion were shifted to lower preferred speeds. As a consequence, bidirectional motion of some speeds typically evoked larger responses than unidirectional motion. Third, we showed that these changes in neural responses could explain changes in speed perception with a simple labeled line decoder. These data provide new insight into the encoding of transparent motion patterns and provide support for the hypothesis that MT activity can be decoded for speed perception with a labeled line model.
    Original languageUndefined
    Pages (from-to)2007-2018
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of neurophysiology
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


    • speed coding
    • EWI-24365
    • BSS-Neurotechnology and cellular engineering
    • Motion perception
    • IR-89162
    • macaque monkey
    • middle temporal area
    • METIS-302674
    • labeled line

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