Masking, adaptation, and summation paradigms have been used to investigate the characteristics of early spatio-temporal vision. Each has been taken to provide evidence for (i) oriented and (ii) nonoriented spatial-filtering mechanisms. However, subsequent findings suggest that the evidence for nonoriented mechanisms has been misinterpreted: those experiments might have revealed the characteristics of suppression (eg, gain control), not excitation, or merely the isotropic subunits of the oriented detecting mechanisms. To shed light on this, we used all three paradigms to focus on the ‘high-speed’ corner of spatio-temporal vision (low spatial frequency, high temporal frequency), where cross-oriented achromatic effects are greatest. We used flickering Gabor patches as targets and a 2IFC procedure for monocular, binocular, and dichoptic stimulus presentations. To account for our results, we devised a simple model involving an isotropic monocular filter-stage feeding orientation-tuned binocular filters. Both filter stages are adaptable, and their outputs are available to the decision stage following nonlinear contrast transduction. However, the monocular isotropic filters (i) adapt only to high-speed stimuli—consistent with a magnocellular subcortical substrate—and (ii) benefit decision making only for high-speed stimuli (ie, isotropic monocular outputs are available only for high-speed stimuli). According to this model, the visual processes revealed by masking, adaptation, and summation are related but not identical.
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- subthreshold summation
- contrast detection
- human vision