Sensitivity of human visual cortical area V6 to stereoscopic depth gradients associated with self-motion

Velia Cardin, Andrew T. Smith

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The principal visual cue to self-motion (egomotion) is optic flow, which is specified in terms of local 2D velocities in the retinal image without reference to depth cues. However, in general, points near the center of expansion of natural flow fields are distant, whereas those in the periphery are closer, creating gradients of horizontal binocular disparity. To assess whether the brain combines disparity gradients with optic flow when encoding egomotion, stereoscopic gradients were applied to expanding dot patterns presented to observers during functional MRI scanning. The gradients were radially symmetrical, disparity changing as a function of eccentricity. The depth cues were either consistent with egomotion (peripheral dots perceived as near and central dots perceived as far) or inconsistent (the reverse gradient, central dots near, peripheral dots far). The BOLD activity generated by these stimuli was compared in a range of predefined visual regions in 13 participants with good stereoacuity. Visual area V6, in the parieto-occipital sulcus, showed a unique pattern of results, responding well to all optic flow patterns but much more strongly when they were paired with consistent rather than inconsistent or zero-disparity gradients. Of the other areas examined, a region of the precuneus and parietoinsular vestibular cortex also differentiate between consistent and inconsistent gradients, but with weak or suppressive responses. V3A, V7, MT, and ventral intraparietal area responded more strongly in the presence of a depth gradient but were indifferent to its depth-flow congruence. The results suggest that depth and flow cues are integrated in V6 to improve estimation of egomotion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1240-1249
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2011


  • Adult
  • Depth Perception
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex

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