Independence of color and luminance edges in natural scenes

Vis Neurosci. Jan-Feb 2009;26(1):35-49. doi: 10.1017/S0952523808080796. Epub 2009 Jan 20.


Form vision is traditionally regarded as processing primarily achromatic information. Previous investigations into the statistics of color and luminance in natural scenes have claimed that luminance and chromatic edges are not independent of each other and that any chromatic edge most likely occurs together with a luminance edge of similar strength. Here we computed the joint statistics of luminance and chromatic edges in over 700 calibrated color images from natural scenes. We found that isoluminant edges exist in natural scenes and were not rarer than pure luminance edges. Most edges combined luminance and chromatic information but to varying degrees such that luminance and chromatic edges were statistically independent of each other. Independence increased along successive stages of visual processing from cones via postreceptoral color-opponent channels to edges. The results show that chromatic edge contrast is an independent source of information that can be linearly combined with other cues for the proper segmentation of objects in natural and artificial vision systems. Color vision may have evolved in response to the natural scene statistics to gain access to this independent information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Color Vision / physiology*
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lighting
  • Luminescence
  • Models, Biological*
  • Neural Networks, Computer
  • Normal Distribution
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology