Improvement in visual sensitivity by changes in local context: parallel studies in human observers and in V1 of alert monkeys

Neuron. 1995 Oct;15(4):843-56. doi: 10.1016/0896-6273(95)90175-2.


To explore the role of primary visual cortex in contour integration, we measured the contextual sensitivity of human contrast thresholds and of superficial layer complex cells in monkey V1. An observer's contrast detection was 40% improved by a second suprathreshold bar; the effect was decreased as the two bars were separated along their axis of orientation, were displaced from colinearity, and had their relative orientation changed. Recordings from V1 showed that 42% of complex cells demonstrated facilitation for a second bar outside their classical receptive fields with a similar dependency on relative location and orientation. Both effects were eliminated by an orthogonal line between the two iso-oriented lines. Multiple randomly placed and oriented lines in the receptive field surround often caused a reduction in a cell's response to an optimally oriented stimulus, but this inhibition could be eliminated by changing the orientation of a few of these elements to colinearity with the centrally located target.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Orientation
  • Psychophysics
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Fields
  • Visual Perception / physiology*