A Neural Model of Motion Processing and Visual Navigation by Cortical Area MST
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Cells in the dorsal medial superior temporal cortex (MSTd) process optic flow generated by self-motion during visually-guided navigation. A neural model shows how interactions between well-known neural mechanisms (log polar cortical magnification, Gaussian motion-sensitive receptive fields, spatial pooling of motion-sensitive signals, and subtractive extraretinal eye movement signals) lead to emergent properties that quantitatively simulate neurophysiological data about MSTd cell properties and psychophysical data about human navigation. Model cells match MSTd neuron responses to optic flow stimuli placed in different parts of the visual field, including position invariance, tuning curves, preferred spiral directions, direction reversals, average response curves, and preferred locations for stimulus motion centers. The model shows how the preferred motion direction of the most active MSTd cells can explain human judgments of self-motion direction (heading), without using complex heading templates. The model explains when extraretinal eye movement signals are needed for accurate heading perception, and when retinal input is sufficient, and how heading judgments depend on scene layouts and rotation rates.