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Synergy of features enables detection of texture defined figures

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

Traditional theories of early visual processing suggest that elementary visual features are handled in parallel by independent neural pathways. We studied the interaction of orientation and spatial frequency in the discrimination of Gabor random fields. Target textures differed from reference textures either in mean feature value, showing an edge-like transition between both textures (edge defined), or in the degree of feature homogeneity with smooth transitions (region defined). Irrespective of the kind of texture definition, we found strong cue summation for targets defined by both cues simultaneously, provided two conditions were fulfilled. First, they were barely discriminable when defined by one cue alone. Second, the target elements formed a closed 2D surface. Only marginal cue summation was observed when target elements were heterogeneously distributed in a predefined area, lacking a clear 2D shape. Our findings indicate that feature synergy enables figure-ground segregation when the information from independent feature-specific pathways is insufficient for solving this task.


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