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Neural mechanisms of human texture processing: Texture boundary detection and visual search

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image of Spatial Vision
For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

Texture of various appearances, geometric distortions, spatial frequency content and densities is utilized by the human visual system to segregate items from background and to enable recognition of complex geometric forms. For automatic, or pre-attentive, segmentation of a visual scene, sophisticated analysis and comparison of surface properties over wide areas of the visual field are required. We investigated the neural substrate underlying human texture processing, particularly the computational mechanisms of texture boundary detection. We present a neural network model which uses as building blocks model cortical areas that are bi-directionally linked to implement cycles of feedforward and feedback interaction for signal detection, hypothesis generation and testing within the infero-temporal pathway of form processing.

In the spirit of Jake Beck's early investigations our model particularly builds upon two key hypotheses, namely that (i) texture segregation is based on boundary detection, rather than clustering homogeneous items, and (ii) texture boundaries are detected mainly on the basis of larger scenic contexts mediated by higher cortical areas, such as area V4. The latter constraint provides a basis for element grouping in accordance to the Gestalt laws of similarity and good continuation. It is shown through simulations that the model integrates a variety of psychophysical findings on texture processing and provides a link to the underlying physiology. The functional role of feedback processing is demonstrated by context dependent modulation of V1 cell activation, leading to sharply localized detection of texture boundaries. It furthermore explains why pre-attentive processing in visual search tasks can be directly linked to texture boundary processing as revealed by recent EEG studies on visual search.


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