Publication of IMPRS-LS student Alessandro La Chioma

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La Chioma, A., Bonhoeffer, T., and Hubener, M.
Curr Biol, 2019, 29, 2954-2960 e2955.
doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.07.037

Area-Specific Mapping of Binocular Disparity across Mouse Visual Cortex

Depth perception is a fundamental feature of many visual systems across species. It is relevant for crucial behaviors, like spatial orientation, prey capture, and predator detection. Binocular disparity, the difference between left and right eye images, is a powerful cue for depth perception, as it depends on an object's distance from the observer [1,2]. In primates, neurons sensitive to binocular disparity are found throughout most of the visual cortex, with distinct disparity tuning properties across primary and higher visual areas, suggesting specific roles of different higher areas for depth perception [1-3]. Mouse primary visual cortex (V1) has been shown to contain disparity-tuned neurons, similar to those found in other mammals [4,5], but it is unknown how binocular disparity is processed beyond V1 and whether it is differentially represented in higher areas. Beyond V1, higher-order, lateromedial (LM) and rostrolateral (RL) areas contain the largest representation of the binocular visual field [6,7], making them candidate areas for investigating downstream processing of binocular disparity in mouse visual cortex. In turn, comparison of disparity tuning across different mouse visual areas might help delineating their functional specializations, which are not well understood. We find clear differences in neurons' preferred disparities across areas, suggesting that higher visual area RL is specialized for encoding visual stimuli very close to the mouse. Moreover, disparity preference is related to visual field elevation, likely reflecting an adaptation to natural image statistics. Our results reveal ethologically relevant areal specializations for binocular disparity processing across mouse visual cortex.