Single Cell Integration of Animate Form, Motion and Location in the Superior Temporal Cortex of the Macaque Monkey

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Abstract

This study investigated the cellular mechanisms in the anterior part of the superior temporal sulcus (STSa) that underlie the integration of different features of the same visually perceived animate object. Three visual features were systematically manipulated: form, motion and location. In 58% of a population of cells selectively responsive to the sight of a walking agent, the location of the agent significantly influenced the cell’s response. The influence of position was often evident in intricate two- and three-way interactions with the factors form and/or motion. For only one of the 31 cells tested, the response could be explained by just a single factor. For all other cells at least two factors, and for half of the cells (52%) all three factors, played a significant role in controlling responses. Our findings support a reformulation of the Ungerleider and Mishkin model, which envisages a subdivision of the visual processing into a ventral ‘what’ and a dorsal ‘where’ stream. We demonstrated that at least part of the temporal cortex (‘what’ stream) makes ample use of visual spatial information. Our findings open up the prospect of a much more elaborate integration of visual properties of animate objects at the single cell level. Such integration may support the comprehension of animals and their actions.

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