Modelling contrast discrimination data suggest both the pedestal effect and stochastic resonance to be caused by the same mechanism

J Vis. 2008 Nov 24;8(15):17.1-21. doi: 10.1167/8.15.17.


Computational models of spatial vision typically make use of a (rectified) linear filter, a nonlinearity and dominant late noise to account for human contrast discrimination data. Linear-nonlinear cascade models predict an improvement in observers' contrast detection performance when low, subthreshold levels of external noise are added (i.e., stochastic resonance). Here, we address the issue whether a single contrast gain-control model of early spatial vision can account for both the pedestal effect, i.e., the improved detectability of a grating in the presence of a low-contrast masking grating, and stochastic resonance. We measured contrast discrimination performance without noise and in both weak and moderate levels of noise. Making use of a full quantitative description of our data with few parameters combined with comprehensive model selection assessments, we show the pedestal effect to be more reduced in the presence of weak noise than in moderate noise. This reduction rules out independent, additive sources of performance improvement and, together with a simulation study, supports the parsimonious explanation that a single mechanism underlies the pedestal effect and stochastic resonance in contrast perception.

MeSH terms

  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Perceptual Masking / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Vision, Ocular