The results of a previous study [Hupé et al. (1998) Nature, 394: 784-787] led us to conclude that feedback connections are important for differentiating a figure from the background, particularly in the case of low salience stimuli. This conclusion was principally based on the observation in area V3 neurons that inactivating MT by cooling led to a severe weakening of the center response and of the center-surround interactions, and that these effects were particularly strong for low salience stimuli. In the present paper, we first show that the results extend to areas V1 and V2. In particular, the inhibitory center-surround interactions in areas V1, V2 and V3 disappear almost completely in the absence of feedback input from MT for low salience stimuli, whereas the effects are much more limited for stimuli of middle and high salience. We then compare the results obtained in studies of feedback connections from MT to those obtained in a study of the feedback action of area V2 onto V1 neurons [Hupé et al. (2001) J. Neurophysiol., 85: 146-163], in which the same effects were observed on the center mechanism (decrease in response), but no effects were seen on the center-surround interactions. We conclude that feedback connections act in a non-linear fashion to boost the gain of the center mechanism and that they combine with horizontal connections to generate the center-surround interactions.