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Long-range interactions in the spatial integration of motion signals

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

When a sinewave grating is moving within a cross-shaped aperture, a strongly multi-stable phenomenon is perceived. The percept switches between the coherence of an extended surface moving in a single direction and the segregation of two patterned strips sliding across each other in directions parallel to the branches of the cross. We studied how the balance between these two percepts is affected by the length of the arms and by the shape of their ends. We report here that human observers report the segregation into two surfaces more often when the branches of the cross are extended, and when the small sides of the arms are oriented parallel to the grating. Two kinds of early motion signals interact in the crossed barber-pole stimulus: (a) the signals extracted in the middle of the bars are ambiguous with regard to their direction, and usually would be interpreted as motion normal to the grating orientation; (b) the signals from regions where the grating is intersected by the borders of the aperture convey motion signals in direction of the border. Our results show that the global appearance of our display can be dramatically influenced by the reliability of motion signals located in small regions that may be separated by large distances. To explain this long-range effect, we tentatively propose the existence of a representation level situated between the extraction of low-level local signals and the final global percept. The postulated processing level is concerned with the segmenting of the entire image into surfaces that are likely to belong to the same object, even if they are not contiguous in space. This hypothetical mechanism involves the construction of coarse-scale 'patches' from the local motion signal distributions, each carrying a single velocity associated with a certain degree of reliability. Our experiments indicate that the probability of grouping together similar patches depends on their respective reliabilities.

Affiliations: 1: Centre de Recherche en Neurosciences Cognitives, VPR 9012 du CNRS, 31 chemin Joseph Aiguier, 13009 Marseille, France; 2: Centre for Visual Sciences, RSBS, Australian National University, P.O. Box 475, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia


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