From elements to perception: Local and global processing in visual neurons
Journal/Book: Perception. 1999; 28: 207 Brondesbury Park, London NW2 5Jn, England. Pion Ltd. 1461-1492.
Abstract: Gestalt psychologists in the early part of the century challenged psychophysical notions that perceptual phenomena can be understood from a punctate (atomistic) analysis of the elements present in the stimulus. Their ideas slowed later attempts to explain vision in terms of single-cell recordings from individual neurons. A rapprochement between Gestalt phenomenology and neurophysiology seemed unlikely when the first ECVP was held in Marburg, Germany, in 1978. Since that time, response properties of neurons have been discovered that invite an interpretation of visual phenomena (including illusions) in terms of neuronal processing by long-range interactions, as first proposed by Mach and Hering in the last century. This article traces a personal journey into the early days of neurophysiological vision research to illustrate the progress that has taken place from the first attempts to correlate single-cell responses with visual perceptions. Whereas initially the receptive-field properties of individual classes of cells--eg contrast, wavelength, orientation, motion, disparity, and spatial-frequency detectors--were used to account for relatively simple visual phenomena, nowadays complex perceptions are interpreted in terms of long-range interactions, involving many neurons. This change in paradigm from local to global processing was made possible by recent findings, in the cortex, on horizontal interactions and backward propagation (feedback loops) in addition to classical feedforward processing. These mechanisms are exemplified by studies of the tilt effect and tilt aftereffect, direction-specific motion adaptation, illusory contours, filling-in and fading, figure-ground segregation by orientation and motion contrast, and pop-out in dynamic visual-noise patterns. Major questions for future research and a discussion of their epistemological implications conclude the article.
Note: Review Spillmann L, Univ Freiburg, Inst Biophys & Radiat Biol, Brain Res Unit, Hansastr 9, D-79104 Freiburg, GERMANY
Keyword(s): LATERAL GENICULATE-NUCLEUS; CLASSICAL RECEPTIVE-FIELD; FIGURE-GROUND SEGREGATION; INFERIOR TEMPORAL NEURONS; RETINAL GANGLION-CELLS; HERMANN GRID ILLUSION; CAT STRIATE CORTEX; FILLING-IN; MACAQUE MONKEY; ILLUSORY CONTOURS