Orientation masking and cross-orientation suppression (XOS): implications for estimates of channel bandwidth

Timothy Meese*, David J. Holmes

*Corresponding author for this work

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Most contemporary models of spatial vision include a cross-oriented route to suppression (masking from a broadly tuned inhibitory pool), which is most potent at low spatial and high temporal frequencies (T. S. Meese & D. J. Holmes, 2007). The influence of this pathway can elevate orientation-masking functions without exciting the target mechanism, and because early psychophysical estimates of filter bandwidth did not accommodate this, it is likely that they have been overestimated for this corner of stimulus space. Here we show that a transient 40% contrast mask causes substantial binocular threshold elevation for a transient vertical target, and this declines from a mask orientation of 0° to about 40° (indicating tuning), and then more gently to 90°, where it remains at a factor of ∼4. We also confirm that cross-orientation masking is diminished or abolished at high spatial frequencies and for sustained temporal modulation. We fitted a simple model of pedestal masking and cross-orientation suppression (XOS) to our data and those of G. C. Phillips and H. R. Wilson (1984) and found the dependency of orientation bandwidth on spatial frequency to be much less than previously supposed. An extension of our linear spatial pooling model of contrast gain control and dilution masking (T. S. Meese & R. J. Summers, 2007) is also shown to be consistent with our results using filter bandwidths of ±20°. Both models include tightly and broadly tuned components of divisive suppression. More generally, because XOS and/or dilution masking can affect the shape of orientation-masking curves, we caution that variations in bandwidth estimates might reflect variations in processes that have nothing to do with filter bandwidth.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2010

Bibliographical note

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License


  • spatial vision
  • orientation masking
  • contrast gain control
  • spatiotemporal vision


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