Vision must analyze the retinal image over both small and large areas to represent fine-scale spatial details and extensive textures. The long-range neuronal convergence that this implies might lead us to expect that contrast sensitivity should improve markedly with the contrast area of the image. But this is at odds with the orthodox view that contrast sensitivity is determined merely by probability summation over local independent detectors. To address this puzzle, I aimed to assess the summation of luminance contrast without the confounding influence of area-dependent internal noise. I measured contrast detection thresholds for novel Battenberg stimuli that had identical overall dimensions (to clamp the aggregation of noise) but were constructed from either dense or sparse arrays of micro-patterns. The results unveiled a three-stage visual hierarchy of contrast summation involving (i) spatial filtering, (ii) long-range summation of coherent textures, and (iii) pooling across orthogonal textures. Linear summation over local energy detectors was spatially extensive (as much as 16 cycles) at Stage 2, but the resulting model is also consistent with earlier classical results of contrast summation (J. G. Robson & N. Graham, 1981), where co-aggregation of internal noise has obscured these long-range interactions.
Bibliographical noteCreative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License
- spatial vision
- detection threshold
- contrats sensitivity