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Perceptual consequences of centre–surround antagonism in visual motion processing


Centre–surround receptive field organization is a ubiquitous property in mammalian visual systems, presumably tailored for extracting image features that are differentially distributed over space1. In visual motion, this is evident as antagonistic interactions between centre and surround regions of the receptive fields of many direction-selective neurons in visual cortex2,3,4,5,6. In a series of psychophysical experiments we make the counterintuitive observation that increasing the size of a high-contrast moving pattern renders its direction of motion more difficult to perceive and reduces its effectiveness as an adaptation stimulus. We propose that this is a perceptual correlate of centre–surround antagonism, possibly within a population of neurons in the middle temporal visual area. The spatial antagonism of motion signals observed at high contrast gives way to spatial summation as contrast decreases. Evidently, integration of motion signals over space depends crucially on the visibility of those signals, thereby allowing the visual system to register motion information efficiently and adaptively.

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Figure 1: Effects of size and contrast on motion perception.
Figure 2: Results from added-noise, random-dot and eccentricity experiments.
Figure 3: Results from phase-shift and isoluminant-motion experiments.
Figure 4: Effects of stimulus size and contrast on the MAE strength for three subjects, A.P. (top), R.B. (middle) and D.T. (bottom).

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We thank J. Schall, B. Borghuis, S. Shorter-Jacobi and A. Panduranga for comments on the experiments and manuscript. This work was supported by a grant from the NIH.

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Correspondence to Duje Tadin.

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Tadin, D., Lappin, J., Gilroy, L. et al. Perceptual consequences of centre–surround antagonism in visual motion processing. Nature 424, 312–315 (2003).

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