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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Aug 2;108(31):12909-14. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1015680108. Epub 2011 Jul 18.

Symmetries in stimulus statistics shape the form of visual motion estimators.

Author information

1
Bio-X, James H. Clark Center, Department of Physics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.

Abstract

The estimation of visual motion has long been studied as a paradigmatic neural computation, and multiple models have been advanced to explain behavioral and neural responses to motion signals. A broad class of models, originating with the Reichardt correlator model, proposes that animals estimate motion by computing a temporal cross-correlation of light intensities from two neighboring points in visual space. These models provide a good description of experimental data in specific contexts but cannot explain motion percepts in stimuli lacking pairwise correlations. Here, we develop a theoretical formalism that can accommodate diverse stimuli and behavioral goals. To achieve this, we treat motion estimation as a problem of Bayesian inference. Pairwise models emerge as one component of the generalized strategy for motion estimation. However, correlation functions beyond second order enable more accurate motion estimation. Prior expectations that are asymmetric with respect to bright and dark contrast use correlations of both even and odd orders, and we show that psychophysical experiments using visual stimuli with symmetric probability distributions for contrast cannot reveal whether the subject uses odd-order correlators for motion estimation. This result highlights a gap in previous experiments, which have largely relied on symmetric contrast distributions. Our theoretical treatment provides a natural interpretation of many visual motion percepts, indicates that motion estimation should be revisited using a broader class of stimuli, demonstrates how correlation-based motion estimation is related to stimulus statistics, and provides multiple experimentally testable predictions.

PMID:
21768376
PMCID:
PMC3150910
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1015680108
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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