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J Neurosci. 2003 Jul 30;23(17):6884-93.

Response suppression in v1 agrees with psychophysics of surround masking.

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Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


When a target stimulus is embedded in a high contrast surround, the target appears reduced in contrast and is harder to detect, and neural responses in visual cortex are suppressed. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and psychophysics to quantitatively compare these physiological and perceptual effects. Observers performed a contrast discrimination task on a contrast-reversing sinusoidal target grating. The target was either presented in isolation or embedded in a high-contrast surround. While observers performed the task, we also measured fMRI responses as a function of target contrast, both with and without a surround. We found that the surround substantially increased the psychophysical thresholds while reducing fMRI responses. The two data sets were compared, on the basis of the assumption that a fixed response difference is required for correct discrimination, and we found that the psychophysics accounted for 96.5% of the variance in the measured V1 responses. The suppression in visual areas V2 and V3 was stronger, too strong to agree with psychophysics. The good quantitative agreement between psychophysical thresholds and V1 responses suggests V1 as a plausible candidate for mediating surround masking.

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