Image luminance changes contrast sensitivity in visual cortex

Cell Rep. 2021 Feb 2;34(5):108692. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.108692.


Accurate measures of contrast sensitivity are important for evaluating visual disease progression and for navigation safety. Previous measures suggested that cortical contrast sensitivity was constant across widely different luminance ranges experienced indoors and outdoors. Against this notion, here, we show that luminance range changes contrast sensitivity in both cat and human cortex, and the changes are different for dark and light stimuli. As luminance range increases, contrast sensitivity increases more within cortical pathways signaling lights than those signaling darks. Conversely, when the luminance range is constant, light-dark differences in contrast sensitivity remain relatively constant even if background luminance changes. We show that a Naka-Rushton function modified to include luminance range and light-dark polarity accurately replicates both the statistics of light-dark features in natural scenes and the cortical responses to multiple combinations of contrast and luminance. We conclude that differences in light-dark contrast increase with luminance range and are largest in bright environments.

Keywords: EEG; LGN; adaptation; area V1; contrast; natural scenes; primary visual cortex; receptive field; thalamocortical; thalamus.

Publication types

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