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Perception. 1995;24(6):695-717.

100 years of Benham's top in colour science.

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  • 1Institut für Zoologie III, Johannes Gutenberg Universität, Mainz, Germany.


For 100 years Benham's top has been a popular device demonstrating pattern-induced flicker colours (PIFCs). Results of early and recent investigations on PIFCs are reported and show that the phenomenon originates in phase-sensitive lateral interactions of modulated neural activity in the retina followed by additional spatial interactions in the visual cortex behind the locus of binocular fusion. Colour matches with normal colour stimuli indicate that S/(M + L) opponent neurons are involved. Dichromats do not find matching stimuli for all PIFCs. PIFCs may become useful in medical diagnosis. The phenomenon is interpreted as a side effect of a neural mechanism providing colour constancy under normal stimulus conditions.

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