Spectral receptive field properties of visually active neurons in the caudate nucleus

Recent studies stress the importance of the caudate nucleus in visual information processing. Although the processing of moving visual signals depends upon the capability of a system to integrate spatial and temporal information, no study has investigated the spectral receptive field organization of the caudate nucleus neurons yet. Therefore, we tested caudate neurons of the feline brain by extracellular single-cell recording applying drifting sinewave gratings of various spatial and temporal frequencies, and reconstructed their spectral receptive fields by plotting their responsiveness as a function of different combinations of spatial and temporal frequencies. The majority of the caudate cells (74%) exhibited peak tuning, which means that their spatio-temporal frequency response profile had a characteristic region of increased activity with a single maximum in the spatio-temporal frequency domain. In one-quarter of the recorded caudate neurons ridge tuning was found, where the region of increased activity, forming an elongated ridge of maximal sensitivity parallel or angled to the spatial or the temporal frequency axis, indicating temporal (16%), spatial (5%) or speed (5%) tuning, respectively. The velocity preference of the ridge tuned caudate nucleus neurons is significantly lower than that of the peak tuned neurons. The peak tuned neuron could encode high velocities, while the ridge tuned neurons were responsible for the detection of moderate and lower velocities. Based upon our results, we suggest that the wide variety of spatio-temporal frequency response profiles might represent different functional neuronal groups within the caudate nucleus that subserve different behaviors to meet various environmental requirements.