Journal of Neuroscience vol:30 issue:46 pages:15491-15508
Motion is a potent cue for the perception of three-dimensional (3D) shape in primates, but little is known about its underlying neural mechanisms. Guided by recent functional magnetic resonance imaging results, we tested neurons in the fundus of the superior temporal sulcus (FST) area of two macaque monkeys (Macaca mulatta, one male) using motion-defined surface patches with various 3D shapes such as slanted planes, saddles, or cylinders. The majority of the FST neurons (>80%) were selective for stimuli depicting specific shapes, and all the surfaces tested were represented among the selective FST neurons. Importantly, this selectivity tolerated changes in speed, position, size, or between binocular and monocular presentations. This tolerance demonstrates that the 3D structure-from-motion (3D-SFM) selectivity of FST neurons is a higher-order selectivity, which cannot be reduced to a lower-order speed selectivity. The 3D-SFM selectivity of FST neurons was unaffected by removal of the opposed-motion cue that supplemented the speed gradient cue in the standard stimuli. When tested with the same standard stimuli, fewer neurons in the middle temporal/visual 5 (MT/V5) area were selective than FST neurons. In addition, selective MT/V5 neurons represented fewer types of surfaces and were less tolerant of stimulus changes than FST neurons. Overall, these results indicate that FST neurons code motion-defined 3D shape fragments, underscoring the central role of FST in processing 3D-SFM.