Adaptation and gain pool summation: Alternative models and masking data

Timothy S. Meese*, D.J. Holmes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Foley [J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 11 (1994) 1710] has proposed an influential psychophysical model of masking in which mask components in a contrast gain pool are raised to an exponent before summation and divisive inhibition. We tested this summation rule in experiments in which contrast detection thresholds were measured for a vertical 1 c/deg (or 2 c/deg) sine-wave component in the presence of a 3 c/deg (or 6 c/deg) mask that had either a single component oriented at -45° or a pair of components oriented at ±45°. Contrary to the predictions of Foley's model 3, we found that for masks of moderate contrast and above, threshold elevation was predicted by linear summation of the mask components in the inhibitory stage of the contrast gain pool. We built this feature into two new models, referred to as the early adaptation model and the hybrid model. In the early adaptation model, contrast adaptation controls a threshold-like nonlinearity on the output of otherwise linear pathways that provide the excitatory and inhibitory inputs to a gain control stage. The hybrid model involves nonlinear and nonadaptable routes to excitatory and inhibitory stages as well as an adaptable linear route. With only six free parameters, both models provide excellent fits to the masking and adaptation data of Foley and Chen [Vision Res. 37 (1997) 2779] but unlike Foley and Chen's model, are able to do so with only one adaptation parameter. However, only the hybrid model is able to capture the features of Foley's (1994) pedestal plus orthogonal fixed mask data. We conclude that (1) linear summation of inhibitory components is a feature of contrast masking, and (2) that the main aftereffect of spatial adaptation on contrast increment thresholds can be assigned to a single site. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1113-1125
Number of pages13
JournalVision Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2002


  • contrast discrimination
  • contrast normalization
  • cortex
  • gain control
  • inhibition


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