We performed a quantitative characterization of binocular disparity-tuning functions in the ventral (object-processing) pathway of the macaque visual cortex. We measured responses of 452 area V4 neurons to stimuli with disparities ranging from -1.0 to +1.0°. Asymmetric Gaussian functions fit the raw data best (median R = 0.90), capturing both the modal components (local peaks in the -1.0 to +1.0° range) and the monotonic components (linear or sigmoidal dependency on disparity) of the tuning patterns. Values derived from the asymmetric Gaussian fits were used to characterize neurons on a modal X monotonic tuning domain. Points along the modal tuning axis correspond to classic tuned excitatory and inhibitory patterns; points along the monotonic axis correspond to classic near and far patterns. The distribution on this domain was continuous, with the majority of neurons exhibiting a mixed modal/monotonic tuning pattern. The distribution in the modal dimension was shifted toward excitatory patterns, consistent with previous results in other areas. The distribution in the monotonic dimension was shifted toward tuning for crossed disparities (corresponding to stimuli nearer than the fixation plane). This could reflect a perceptual emphasis on objects or object parts closer to the observer. We also found that disparity-tuning strength was positively correlated with orientation-tuning strength and color-tuning strength, and negatively correlated with receptive field eccentricity.
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