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Maximilian Bruchmann, Philipp Hintze, Johannes Vorwerk; The time course of feature integration in plaid patterns revealed by meta- and paracontrast masking. Journal of Vision 2012;12(13):13. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/12.13.13.
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When a plaid object is presented, the visual system decomposes it into its constituting orientation primitives and integrates them at later processing stages. The present study reveals the time course of this process by applying meta- and paracontrast masking to both simple oriented and plaid gratings. With various stimulus onset asynchronies (SOA) between target gratings and surrounding mask annuli, subjects were asked to identify whether targets were simple gratings collinear to the masks, orthogonal to the masks, plaid, or whether no target was presented. The resulting time courses for each type of stimulus confusion showed that metacontrast peaked when orientation primitives had already begun to be integrated into one object, indicated by a dominance of “no target” responses given to plaid stimuli at SOAs around 70 ms. At SOAs around 10 to 30 ms masking also had a significant impact but acted on separable components, indicated by a dominance of “orthogonal” responses given plaid stimuli. Probability summation of “no target” responses given simple gratings revealed that only at shorter SOAs performance for plaid stimuli could be predicted assuming independent features but not at SOAs of at 50–70 ms. We discuss in how far these results could also be explained by the dynamics of cross-orientation suppression (COS) and how they might relate to the process of feature integration in plaids.
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