The ability to estimate the speed of an object irrespective of size or texture is a crucial function of the visual system. However, previous studies have suggested that the neuronal coding of speed in the middle temporal area (MT, a key cortical area for motion analysis in primates) is ambiguous, with most neurons changing their speed tuning depending on the spatial frequency (SF) of a visual pattern. Here we demonstrate that the ability of MT neurons to encode speed is markedly improved when stimuli follow a trajectory across the visual field, prior to entering their receptive fields. We also show that this effect is much less marked in the primary visual area. These results indicate that MT neurons build up on computations performed at earlier levels of the visual system to provide accurate coding of speed in natural situations, and provide additional evidence that nonlinear pooling underlie motion processing.
- sensory processing
- visual system