Dynamic characteristics of spatial mechanisms coding contour structures
Psychophysical thresholds for the detection of luminance targets improve significantly when the targets are presented in a specific context of spatially separated, collinear inducing stimuli defining visual contours. This phenomenon is generally referred to as a special case of detection facilitation called spatial facilitation. Spatial facilitation has been observed with luminance-defined, achromatic stimuli on achromatic backgrounds as well as with targets and inducers defined by colour
... ned by colour contrast. This paper reviews psychophysical results from detection experiments with human observers showing the conditions under which spatially separated contour inducers facilitate the detection of simultaneously presented target stimuli. The findings point towards two types of spatial mechanisms: (i) Short-range mechanisms that are sensitive to narrowly spaced stimuli of small size and, at distinct target locations, selective to the contrast polarity of targets and inducers. (ii) Long-range mechanisms that are triggered by longer stimuli, generate facilitation across wider spatial gaps between targets and inducers, and are insensitive to their contrast polarity. Spatial facilitation with chromatic stimuli requires a longer inducer exposure than spatial facilitation with achromatic stimuli, which is already fully effective at inducer exposures of 30 ms. This difference in temporal dynamics indicates some functional segregation between mechanisms for colour and luminance contrast in spatial coding. In general, spatially induced detection facilitation can to a large extent be explained by mechanisms involving from-short-to-long-range interactions between cortical detectors.