The time course of different surround suppression mechanisms

J Vis. 2019 Apr 1;19(4):12. doi: 10.1167/19.4.12.


What we see depends on the spatial context in which it appears. Previous work has linked the suppression of perceived contrast by surrounding stimuli to reduced neural responses in early visual cortex. This surround suppression depends on at least two separable neural mechanisms, "low-level" and "higher level," which can be differentiated by their response characteristics. We used electroencephalography to demonstrate for the first time that human occipital neural responses show evidence of these two suppression mechanisms. Eighteen adults (10 women, 8 men) each participated in three experimental sessions, in which they viewed visual stimuli through a mirror stereoscope. The first session was used to identify the C1 component, while the second and third comprised the main experiment. Event-related potentials were measured in response to center gratings either with no surround or with surrounding gratings oriented parallel or orthogonal, and presented in either the same eye (monoptic) or the opposite eye (dichoptic). We found that the earliest component of an event-related potential (C1; ∼60 ms) was suppressed by surrounding stimuli, but that suppression did not depend on surround configuration. This suggests a suppression mechanism that is not tuned for relative orientation acting on the earliest cortical response to the target. A later response component (N1; ∼160 ms) showed stronger suppression for parallel and monoptic surrounds, consistent with our earlier psychophysical results and a second form of suppression that is binocular and orientation tuned. We conclude that these two forms of surround suppression have distinct response time courses in the human visual system, which can be differentiated using electrophysiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occipital Lobe / physiology*
  • Orientation, Spatial / physiology*
  • Psychophysics
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*