As an observer translates, objects lying at different distances from the observer have differential image motion on the retina (motion parallax). It is well established psychophysically that humans perceive depth rather precisely from motion parallax and that extraretinal signals may be used to correctly perceive the sign of depth (near vs far) when binocular and pictorial depth cues are absent or weak. However, the neural basis for this capacity remains poorly understood. We have shown previously that neurons in the macaque middle temporal (MT) area combine retinal image motion with smooth eye movement command signals to signal depth sign from motion parallax. However, those studies were performed in animals that were required simply to track a visual target, thus precluding direct comparisons between neural activity and behavior. Here, we examine the activity of MT neurons in rhesus monkeys that were trained to discriminate depth sign based on motion parallax, in the absence of binocular disparity and pictorial depth cues. We find that the most sensitive MT neurons approach behavioral sensitivity, whereas the average neuron is twofold to threefold less sensitive than the animal. We also find that MT responses are predictive of perceptual decisions (independent of the visual stimulus), consistent with a role for MT in providing sensory signals for this behavior. Our findings suggest that, in addition to its established roles in processing stereoscopic depth, area MT is well suited to contribute to perception of depth based on motion parallax.
- Motion parallax
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