Testing the link between visual suppression and intelligence

PLoS One. 2018 Jul 6;13(7):e0200151. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200151. eCollection 2018.


The impairment to discriminate the motion direction of a large high contrast stimulus or to detect a stimulus surrounded by another one is called visual suppression and is the result of the normal function of our visual inhibitory mechanisms. Recently, Melnick et al. (2013), using a motion discrimination task, showed that intelligence strongly correlates with visual suppression (r = 0.71). Cook et al. (2016) also showed a strong link between contrast surround suppression and IQ (r = 0.87), this time using a contrast matching task. Our aim is to test this link using two different visual suppression tasks: a motion discrimination task and a contrast detection task. Fifty volunteers took part in the experiments. Using Bayesian staircases, we measured duration thresholds in the motion experiment and contrast thresholds in the spatial experiment. Although we found a much weaker effect, our results from the motion experiment still replicate previous results supporting the link between motion surround suppression and IQ (r = 0.43). However, our results from the spatial experiment do not support the link between contrast surround suppression and IQ (r = -0.09). Methodological differences between this study and previous studies which could explain these discrepancies are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychophysics
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This study was supported by grant PSI2014-51960-P from Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (Secretaría de Estado de Investigación, Desarrollo e Innovación), (Spain) to ISP (http://www.mineco.gob.es). SAP is supported by the fellowship FPU16/02683 from Ministerio de Educación (Spain, https://www.mecd.gob.es). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.