Analysis of the context integration mechanisms underlying figure-ground organization in the visual cortex

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Most neurons in visual cortex respond to contrast borders and are orientation selective, and some are also selective for which side of a border is figure and which side is ground ("border ownership coding"). These neurons are influenced by the image context far beyond the classical receptive field (CRF) and as early as 25 ms after the onset of activity in the cortex. The nature of the fast context integration mechanism is not well understood. What parts of a figure contribute to the context effect? What is the structure of the "extraclassical surround"? Is the context information propagated through horizontal fibers within cortex or through reciprocal connections via higher-level areas? To address these questions, we studied border ownership modulation with fragmented figures. Neurons were recorded in areas V1 and V2 of Macaca mulatta under behaviorally induced fixation. Test figures were fragmented rectangles. While one edge was centered on the CRF, the presence of the fragments outside the CRF was varied. The surround fragments produced facilitation on the preferred border ownership side as well as suppression on the nonpreferred side, with ∼80% of the locations contributing on average. Fragments far from the CRF influenced the responses even in the absence of fragments closer to the CRF, and without the extra delay that would incur from propagation through horizontal fibers. Three principally different models are discussed. The results support a model in which the antagonistic surround influences are produced by reentrant signals from a higher-level area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6482-6496
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 12 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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