1. Spatiotemporal receptive fields (RFs) for left and right eyes were studied for simple cells in the cat's striate cortex to examine the idea that stereoscopic depth information is encoded via structural differences of RFs between the two eyes. Traditional models are based on neurons that possess matched RF profiles for the two eyes. We propose a model that requires a subset of simple cells with mismatched RF profiles for the two eyes in addition to those with similar RF structure. 2. A reverse correlation technique, which allows a rapid measurement of detailed RF profiles in the joint space-time domains, was used to map RFs for isolated single neurons recorded extracellularly in the anesthetized paralyzed cat. 3. Approximately 30% of our sample of cells shows substantial differences between spatial RF structure for the two eyes. Nearly all of these neurons prefer orientations between oblique and vertical, and are therefore presumed to be involved in processing horizontal disparities. On the other hand, cells that prefer orientations near horizontal have matched RF profiles for the two eyes. Considered together, these findings suggest that the visual system takes advantage of the orientation anisotropy of binocular disparities present in the retinal images. 4. For some cells, the spatial structure of the RF changes over the time course of the response (inseparable RF in the space-time domain). In these cases, the change is similar for the two eyes, and therefore the difference remains nearly constant at all times. Because the difference of the RF structure between the two eyes is the critical determinant of a cell's relative depth selectivity for the proposed model, space-time inseparability of RFs is not an obstacle for consistent representation of stereoscopic information. 5. RF parameters including amplitude, RF width, and optimal spatial frequency are generally well matched for the two eyes over the time course of the response. The preferred speed and direction of motion are also well matched for the two eyes. These results suggest that the encoding of motion in depth is not likely to be a function of simple cells in the striate cortex. 6. The results presented here are consistent with our model, in which stereoscopic depth information is encoded via differences in the spatial structure of RFs for the two eyes. This model provides a natural binocular extension of the current notion of monocular spatial form encoding by a population of simple cells. Note, however, that our findings do not exclude the possibility that positional shifts of RFs also play a role in determining the disparity selectivity of cortical neurons.
- Copyright © 1996 the American Physiological Society