Mechanisms of spatiotemporal selectivity in cortical area MT

Cortical sensory neurons are characterized by selectivity to stimulation. This selectivity was originally viewed as a part of the fundamental “receptive field” characteristic of neurons. This view was later challenged by evidence that receptive fields are modulated by stimuli outside of the classical receptive field. Here we show that even this modified view of selectivity needs revision. We measured spatial frequency selectivity of neurons in cortical area MT of alert monkeys and found that their selectivity strongly depends on luminance contrast, shifting to higher spatial frequencies as contrast increases. The changes of preferred spatial frequency are large at low temporal frequency and they decrease monotonically as temporal frequency increases. That is, even interactions among basic stimulus dimensions of luminance contrast, spatial frequency and temporal frequency strongly influence neuronal selectivity. This dynamic nature of neuronal selectivity is inconsistent with the notion of stimulus preference as a stable characteristic of cortical neurons.