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P. J. B. Hancock, L. Walton, G. Mitchell, Y. Plenderleith, W. A. Phillips; Segregation by onset asynchrony. Journal of Vision 2008;8(7):21. doi: 10.1167/8.7.21.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
We describe a simple psychophysical paradigm for studying figure-ground segregation by onset asynchrony. Two pseudorandom arrays of Gabor patches are displayed, to left and right of fixation. Within one array, a subset of elements form a figure, such as a randomly curving path, that can only be reliably detected when their onset is not synchronized with that of the background elements. Several findings are reported. First, for most participants, segregation required an onset asynchrony of 20–40 ms. Second, detection was no better when the figure was presented first, and thus by itself, than when the background elements were presented first, even though in the latter case the figure could not be detected in either of the two successive displays alone. Third, asynchrony segregated subsets of randomly oriented elements equally well. Fourth, asynchronous onsets aligned with the path could be discriminated from those lying on the path but not aligned with it. Fifth, both transient and sustained neural activity contribute to detection. We argue that these findings are compatible with neural signaling by synchronized rate codes. Finally, schizophrenic disorganization is associated with reduced sensitivity. Thus, in addition to bearing upon basic theoretical issues, this paradigm may have clinical utility.
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