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Cortical potentials reflecting motion processing in humans

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 June 2009

Dieter R. Patzwahl
Neurologische Universitätsklinik, Hoppe-Seyler-Str. 3, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany
Johannes M. Zanker
Max-Planck-Institut für biologische Kybernetik, Spemannstr. 38, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany
Eckart O. Altenmüller
Neurologische Universitätsklinik, Hoppe-Seyler-Str. 3, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany


Motion processing is a fundamental task of visual systems, and in the monkey cortical areas can be identified which appear to be functionally specialized for motion processing. The human visual system is expected to be organized in a similar way. A noninvasive method to study the functional organization of the visual cortex is the recording of scalp potentials generated by neural activity of the underlying cortical areas. In the present study, we recorded slow cortical potentials from normal subjects in order to investigate how motion stimuli are processed. Three classes of object motion were realized as random dot kinematograms, namely Fourier motion, drift-balanced motion, and theta motion, because they require mechanisms of increasing complexity in order to be extracted. Large-field motion and counterphase flicker were used as control stimuli. Three basic results were obtained: (1) The responses evoked by the three classes of object motion do not differ significantly in their time course and distribution of activation. (2) The distributions of cortical activation evoked by object motion, and the control stimuli are different. During object motion the maximum activation occurs over the superior parietal cortex. Large-field motion activates occipital and parietal locations to the same extent, and during counterphase flicker the activity is maximum over the occipital lobe. Thus, the parietal slow potentials are interpreted to specifically reflect the cortical processing of object motion. (3) The time course of the activation reflects changes in the spatial position of the object: the amplitude of a transient negative component (TNC) which occurs 240 ms after motion onset decreases with increasing eccentricity of motion onset. The consecutive sustained negative component (SNC), which persists until the movement stops, decreases during centrifugal and increases during centripetal object motion. These results can be understood on the basis of physiological and anatomical knowledge about the mapping of the visual field on the cortex.

Research Articles
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1994

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