Cortical Dynamics of Figure-Ground Separation in Response to 2D Pictures and 3D Scenes: How V2 Combines Border Ownership, Stereoscopic Cues, and Gestalt Grouping Rules

Front Psychol. 2016 Jan 26;6:2054. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.02054. eCollection 2015.


The FACADE model, and its laminar cortical realization and extension in the 3D LAMINART model, have explained, simulated, and predicted many perceptual and neurobiological data about how the visual cortex carries out 3D vision and figure-ground perception, and how these cortical mechanisms enable 2D pictures to generate 3D percepts of occluding and occluded objects. In particular, these models have proposed how border ownership occurs, but have not yet explicitly explained the correlation between multiple properties of border ownership neurons in cortical area V2 that were reported in a remarkable series of neurophysiological experiments by von der Heydt and his colleagues; namely, border ownership, contrast preference, binocular stereoscopic information, selectivity for side-of-figure, Gestalt rules, and strength of attentional modulation, as well as the time course during which such properties arise. This article shows how, by combining 3D LAMINART properties that were discovered in two parallel streams of research, a unified explanation of these properties emerges. This explanation proposes, moreover, how these properties contribute to the generation of consciously seen 3D surfaces. The first research stream models how processes like 3D boundary grouping and surface filling-in interact in multiple stages within and between the V1 interblob-V2 interstripe-V4 cortical stream and the V1 blob-V2 thin stripe-V4 cortical stream, respectively. Of particular importance for understanding figure-ground separation is how these cortical interactions convert computationally complementary boundary and surface mechanisms into a consistent conscious percept, including the critical use of surface contour feedback signals from surface representations in V2 thin stripes to boundary representations in V2 interstripes. Remarkably, key figure-ground properties emerge from these feedback interactions. The second research stream shows how cells that compute absolute disparity in cortical area V1 are transformed into cells that compute relative disparity in cortical area V2. Relative disparity is a more invariant measure of an object's depth and 3D shape, and is sensitive to figure-ground properties.

Keywords: 3D LAMINART model; FACADE model; Gestalt rules; border ownership; boundary grouping; cortical area V2; figure-ground separation; surface filling-in.