Statistics of natural scenes and cortical color processing

J Vis. 2010 Sep 1;10(11):21. doi: 10.1167/10.11.21.


We investigate the spatial correlations of orientation and color information in natural images. We find that the correlation of orientation information falls off rapidly with increasing distance, while color information is more highly correlated over longer distances. We show that orientation and color information are statistically independent in natural images and that the spatial correlation of jointly encoded orientation and color information decays faster than that of color alone. Our findings suggest that: (a) orientation and color information should be processed in separate channels and (b) the organization of cortical color and orientation selectivity at low spatial frequencies is a reflection of the cortical adaptation to the statistical structure of the visual world. These findings are in agreement with biological observations, as form and color are thought to be represented by different classes of neurons in the primary visual cortex, and the receptive fields of color-selective neurons are larger than those of orientation-selective neurons. The agreement between our findings and biological observations supports the ecological theory of perception.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Biometry / methods*
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Color Vision / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*