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J Vis. 2017 Nov 1;17(13):10. doi: 10.1167/17.13.10.

Neural representation of form-contingent color filling-in in the early visual cortex.

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Department of Psychology and Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL, USA.
Psychology Department and Vanderbilt Vision Research Center, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA.


Perceptual filling-in exemplifies the constructive nature of visual processing. Color, a prominent surface property of visual objects, can appear to spread to neighboring areas that lack any color. We investigated cortical responses to a color filling-in illusion that effectively dissociates perceived color from the retinal input (van Lier, Vergeer, & Anstis, 2009). Observers adapted to a star-shaped stimulus with alternating red- and cyan-colored points to elicit a complementary afterimage. By presenting an achromatic outline that enclosed one of the two afterimage colors, perceptual filling-in of that color was induced in the unadapted central region. Visual cortical activity was monitored with fMRI, and analyzed using multivariate pattern analysis. Activity patterns in early visual areas (V1-V4) reliably distinguished between the two color-induced filled-in conditions, but only higher extrastriate visual areas showed the predicted correspondence with color perception. Activity patterns allowed for reliable generalization between filled-in colors and physical presentations of perceptually matched colors in areas V3 and V4, but not in earlier visual areas. These findings suggest that the perception of filled-in surface color likely requires more extensive processing by extrastriate visual areas, in order for the neural representation of surface color to become aligned with perceptually matched real colors.

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