Multisensory Convergence of Visual and Vestibular Heading Cues in the Pursuit Area of the Frontal Eye Field
Both visual and vestibular sensory cues are important for perceiving one's direction of heading during self-motion. Previous studies have identified multisensory, heading-selective neurons in the dorsal medial superior temporal area (MSTd) and the ventral intraparietal area (VIP). Both MSTd and VIP have strong recurrent connections with the pursuit area of the frontal eye field (FEFsem), but whether FEFsem neurons may contribute to multisensory heading perception remain unknown. We characterized the tuning of macaque FEFsem neurons to visual, vestibular, and multisensory heading stimuli. About two-thirds of FEFsem neurons exhibited significant heading selectivity based on either vestibular or visual stimulation. These multisensory neurons shared many properties, including distributions of tuning strength and heading preferences, with MSTd and VIP neurons. Fisher information analysis also revealed that the average FEFsem neuron was almost as sensitive as MSTd or VIP cells. Visual and vestibular heading preferences in FEFsem tended to be either matched (congruent cells) or discrepant (opposite cells), such that combined stimulation strengthened heading selectivity for congruent cells but weakened heading selectivity for opposite cells. These findings demonstrate that, in addition to oculomotor functions, FEFsem neurons also exhibit properties that may allow them to contribute to a cortical network that processes multisensory heading cues.