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Figure-Ground Organization in Visual Cortex for Natural Scenes

Publication year 2016
Published in eNeuro
Authors J.R. Williford, Rüdiger von der Heydt

Figure-ground organization and border-ownership assignment are essential for understanding natural scenes. It has been shown that many neurons in the macaque visual cortex signal border-ownership in displays of simple geometric shapes such as squares, but how well these neurons resolve border-ownership in natural scenes is not known. We studied area V2 neurons in behaving macaques with static images of complex natural scenes. We found that about half of the neurons were border-ownership selective for contours in natural scenes, and this selectivity originated from the image context. The border-ownership signals emerged within 70 ms after stimulus onset, only ∼30 ms after response onset. A substantial fraction of neurons were highly consistent across scenes. Thus, the cortical mechanisms of figure-ground organization are fast and efficient even in images of complex natural scenes. Understanding how the brain performs this task so fast remains a challenge.

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