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Viljami R. Salmela, Simo Vanni; Brightness and transparency in the early visual cortex. Journal of Vision 2013;13(7):16. doi: 10.1167/13.7.16.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Several psychophysical studies have shown that transparency can have drastic effects on brightness and lightness. However, the neural processes generating these effects have remained unresolved. Several lines of evidence suggest that the early visual cortex is important for brightness perception. While single cell recordings suggest that surface brightness is represented in the primary visual cortex, the results of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have been discrepant. In addition, the location of the neural representation of transparency is not yet known. We investigated whether the fMRI responses in areas V1, V2, and V3 correlate with brightness and transparency. To dissociate the blood oxygen level–dependent (BOLD) response to brightness from the response to local border contrast and mean luminance, we used variants of White's brightness illusion, both opaque and transparent, in which luminance increments and decrements cancel each other out. The stimuli consisted of a target surface and a surround. The surround luminance was always sinusoidally modulated at 0.5 Hz to induce brightness modulation to the target. The target luminance was constant or modulated in counterphase to null brightness modulation. The mean signal changes were calculated from the voxels in V1, V2, and V3 corresponding to the retinotopic location of the target surface. The BOLD responses were significantly stronger for modulating brightness than for stimuli with constant brightness. In addition, the responses were stronger for transparent than for opaque stimuli, but there was more individual variation. No interaction between brightness and transparency was found. The results show that the early visual areas V1–V3 are sensitive to surface brightness and transparency and suggest that brightness and transparency are represented separately.
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