Lightness constancy in primary visual cortex

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Jul 17;98(15):8827-31. doi: 10.1073/pnas.161280398. Epub 2001 Jul 10.


When the illumination of a visual scene changes, the quantity of light reflected from objects is altered. Despite this, the perceived lightness of the objects generally remains constant. This perceptual lightness constancy is thought to be important behaviorally for object recognition. Here we show that interactions from outside the classical receptive fields of neurons in primary visual cortex modulate neural responses in a way that makes them immune to changes in illumination, as is perception. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that the responses of neurons in primary visual cortex carry information about surface lightness in addition to information about form. It also suggests that lightness constancy, which is sometimes thought to involve "higher-level" processes, is manifest at the first stage of visual cortical processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Electrophysiology
  • Light
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*