Primates with primary visual cortex (V1) damage often retain residual motion sensitivity, which is hypothesized to be mediated by middle temporal area (MT). MT neurons continue to respond to stimuli shortly after V1 lesions; however, experimental and clinical studies of lesion-induced plasticity have shown that lesion effects can take several months to stabilize. It is unknown what physiological changes occur in MT and whether neural responses persist long after V1 damage. We recorded neuronal responses in MT to moving dot patterns in adult marmoset monkeys 6-12 months after unilateral V1 lesions. In contrast to results obtained shortly after V1 lesions, we found that fewer MT neurons were direction selective, including neurons expected to still receive projections from remaining parts of V1. The firing rates of most cells increased with increases in motion strength, regardless of stimulus direction. Furthermore, firing rates were higher and more variable than in control MT cells. To test whether these observations could be mechanistically explained by underlying changes in neural circuitry, we created a network model of MT. We found that a local imbalance of inhibition and excitation explained the observed firing rate changes. These results provide the first insights into functional implications of long-term plasticity in MT following V1 lesions.
- marmoset monkey