The visual system's flexibility in estimating depth is remarkable: We readily perceive 3-D structure under diverse conditions from the seemingly random dots of a “magic eye” stereogram to the aesthetically beautiful, but obviously flat, canvasses of the Old Masters. Yet, 3-D perception is often enhanced when different cues specify the same depth. This perceptual process is understood as Bayesian inference that improves sensory estimates. Despite considerable behavioral support for this theory, insights into the cortical circuits involved are limited. Moreover, extant work tested quantitatively similar cues, reducing some of the challenges associated with integrating computationally and qualitatively different signals. Here we address this challenge by measuring fMRI responses to depth structures defined by shading, binocular disparity, and their combination. We quantified information about depth configurations (convex “bumps” vs. concave “dimples”) in different visual cortical areas using pattern classification analysis. We found that fMRI responses in dorsal visual area V3B/KO were more discriminable when disparity and shading concurrently signaled depth, in line with the predictions of cue integration. Importantly, by relating fMRI and psychophysical tests of integration, we observed a close association between depth judgments and activity in this area. Finally, using a cross-cue transfer test, we found that fMRI responses evoked by one cue afford classification of responses evoked by the other. This reveals a generalized depth representation in dorsal visual cortex that combines qualitatively different information in line with 3-D perception.
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Dovencioglu, D., Ban, H., Schofield, A., & Welchman, A. (2013). Perceptual integration for qualitatively different 3-D cues in the human brain. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 25(9), 1527-1541. https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn_a_00417