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Vision Res. 1996 Jul;36(14):2099-109.

Neurophysiological evidence for contrast dependent long-range facilitation and suppression in the human visual cortex.

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Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA.


Long-range spatial interactions in human visual cortex were explored using a lateral masking paradigm. Visual evoked potentials (VEPs) elicited by a Gabor signal presented in isolation or in the presence of two flanking high-contrast Gabor signals (masks) were measured. Response amplitude and phase were recorded for a vertically oriented test, for horizontal and vertical masks and for combinations of vertical tests and vertical or horizontal masks. The amplitudes and phases of the test alone and mask alone responses were added coherently to predict the amplitude for collinear and orthogonal lateral masking conditions. Additivity failures were taken as evidence for neural interactions. At a target-to-mask distance of 2 deg, VEP amplitude exceeded the linear prediction for test contrasts in the range of 8-16% for the collinear, co-axial target/mask combination. Measured response phase also led predicted response phase over the same range of contrast. The VEP amplitudes were less than the linear prediction in the orthogonal target/mask combination and measured response phase lagged the predicted phase. Significant facilitation occurred with collinear test/mask combinations up to at least 3 deg of separation (nine wavelengths). Co-oriented, but non-collinear test/mask combinations (oblique test and mask, horizontal test and mask) did not produce facilitation. Contrast gain thus appears to be set over considerable distances in a configuration-specific fashion.

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