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Brad C. Motter; Stimulus conflation and tuning selectivity in V4 neurons: a model of visual crowding. Journal of Vision 2018;18(1):15. doi: 10.1167/18.1.15.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Visual crowding is a fundamental constraint on our ability to identify peripheral objects in cluttered environments. This study proposes a descriptive model for understanding crowding based on the tuning selectivity for stimuli within the receptive field (RF) and examines potential neural correlates in cortical area V4. For V4 neurons, optimally sized, letter-like stimuli are much smaller than the RF. This permits stimulus conflation, the fusing of separate objects into a single identity, to occur within the RF of single neurons. Flanking interactions between such stimuli were found to be limited to the RF. The response to an optimal stimulus centered in the neuron's RF, is suppressed by the simultaneous presentation of flanking stimuli within the RF. The degree of suppression is a function of the neuron's stimulus tuning properties and the position of the flanker within the RF. A single neuron may show suppression or facilitation depending on the detailed stimulus conditions and the relationship to tuning selectivity. Loss of activity in the set of neurons tuned to a particular stimulus alters its overall representation and potential identification, thus forming a basis for visual crowding effects. The mechanisms that determine the outcome of conflation are associated with object identification, and are not some other independent visual phenomena.
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