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John Cass, David Alais; The mechanisms of collinear integration. Journal of Vision 2006;6(9):5. doi: 10.1167/6.9.5.
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Low-contrast visual contour fragments are easier to detect when presented in the context of nearby collinear contour elements (U. Polat & D. Sagi, 1993). The spatial and temporal determinants of this collinear facilitation have been studied extensively (J. R. Cass & B. Spehar, 2005; Y. Tanaka & D. Sagi, 1998; C. B. Williams & R. F. Hess, 1998), although considerable debate surrounds the neural mechanisms underlying it. Our study examines this question using a novel stimulus, whereby the flanking "contour" elements are rotated around their own axis. By measuring contrast detection thresholds to a brief foveal target presented at various phases of flanker rotation, we find peak facilitation after flankers have rotated beyond their collinear phase. This optimal facilitative delay increases monotonically as a function of target–flanker separation, yielding estimates of cortical propagation of 0.1 m/s, a value highly consistent with the dynamics of long-range horizontal interactions observed within primary visual cortex (V1). A curious new finding is also observed: Facilitative peaks also occur when the target flash precedes flanker collinearity by 20–80 ms, a range consistent with contrast-dependent cortical onset latencies. Together, these data suggest that collinear facilitation involves two separate mechanisms, each possessing distinct dynamics: (i) slowly propagating horizontal interactions within V1 and (ii) a faster integrative mechanism, possibly driven by synchronous collinear cortical onset.
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