Self-movement creates the patterned visual motion of optic flow with a focus of expansion (FOE) that indicates heading direction. During pursuit eye movements, depth cues create a retinal flow field that contains multiple FOEs, potentially complicating heading perception. Paradoxically, human heading perception during pursuit is improved by depth cues. We have studied medial superior temporal (MST) neurons to see whether their heading selectivity is also improved under these conditions. The responses of 134 MST neurons were recorded during the presentation of optic flow stimuli containing one or three speed-defined depth planes. During pursuit, multiple depth-plane stimuli evoked larger responses (71% of neurons) and stronger heading selectivity (70% of neurons). Responses to the three speed-defined depth-planes presented separately showed that most neurons (54%) preferred one of the planes. Responses to multiple depth-plane stimuli were larger than the averaged responses to the three component planes, suggesting enhancing interactions between depth-planes. Thus speed preferences create selective responses to one of many depth-planes in the retinal flow field. The presence of multiple depth-planes enhances those responses. These properties might improve heading perception during pursuit and contribute to relative depth perception.
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