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Date:2/7/2012

ut from many other neurons earlier in the visual pathway, in order to determine whether something is moving toward you or just drifting past." The brain's visual pathway is made up of building blocks. For example, neurons in the retina respond to very simple stimuli, such as small spots of light. Further along the visual pathway, neurons respond to more complex stimulus such as straight lines, by combining inputs from neurons earlier on. Neurons further along respond to even more complex stimulus such as combinations of lines (angles), ultimately leading to neurons that can respond to, or recognize, faces and objects for example.

The research team found that a remarkably simple computation lies at the heart of this sophisticated neural selectivity: MST neurons appear to be capable of performing a multiplicative operation on their inputs. These inputs come from neurons one step earlier in the visual pathway, in a well-studied area known as MT. In other words, the inputs of MT neurons are multiplied in order to get the output of MST neurons. This turns out to be remarkably similar to what has been observed in other brain areas and in other species, suggesting it may reflect a general strategy by which brains process sensory information. "One interesting aspect of the computation is that it appears to be about the same as what other people have found in flies and beetles, suggesting that evolution solved this problem once, at least a few hundred million years ago."

"We developed a new motion stimulus with a morphing pattern flow (e.g. dots on a screen that are expansive, swirl around, circle to the right, contract etc) and recorded MST neurons responding to these stimuli," says Patrick Mineault, Ph.D. candidate at The Neuro and primary author on the study. "We circumvented the issue of increasing complexities of calculations along the various steps of the visual pathway by incorporating known data from neurons just one step earlier in the pathway
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Contact: Anita Kar
anita.kar@mcgill.ca
514-398-3376
McGill University
Source:Eurekalert

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