Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 December 2011
We investigated the contribution of the projections from area MT to the receptive field properties of cells in visual area V2 in anesthetized and paralyzed Cebus apella monkeys. We recorded extracellular single-unit activity using tungsten microelectrodes in three monkeys before and after pressure injection of a 0.25-mol/l GABA solution. The visual stimulus consisted of a single bar moving in one of eight directions. In total, 72 V2 neurons were studied in 18 sessions of GABA injection into area MT. A group of 22 neurons was investigated over a shorter period of time ranging from 15 to 60 min, during which the activity did not return to baseline levels. The remaining 50 neurons were studied over a period of at least 2 h, and no statistical difference was observed in the neuronal response before and long after GABA inactivation. The effects on these 50 neurons consisted of an early (1–20 min) significant general decrease in excitability with changes in either orientation or direction selectivity. The differential decrease in excitability resulted in an intermediate improvement (20–40 min) of the signal-to-noise ratio for the stimulus-driven activity. The inactivation depended on the quantity of GABA injected into area MT and persisted for a period of 2 h. The GABA inactivation in area MT produced inhibition of most cells (72%) and a significant change of direction tuning in the majority (56%) of V2 neurons. Both increases and also decreases in the direction tuning of V2 neurons were observed. These feedback projections are capable of modulating not only the levels of spontaneous and driven activity of V2 neurons but also the V2 receptive field properties, such as direction selectivity.