Pooling and suppression in human spatial vision
A distinct feature of several recent models of contrast masking is that detecting mechanisms are divisively inhibited by a broadly tuned ‘gain pool’ of narrow-band spatial pattern mechanisms. The contrast gain control provided by this ‘cross-channel’ architecture achieves contrast normalisation of early pattern mechanisms, which is important for keeping them within the non-saturating part of their biological operating characteristic. These models superseded earlier ‘within-channel’ models, which had supposed that masking arose from direct stimulation of the detecting mechanism by the mask. To reveal the extent of masking, I measured the levels produced with large ranges of pattern spatial relationships that have not been explored before. Substantial interactions between channels tuned to different orientations and spatial frequencies were found. Differnces in the masking levels produced with single and multiple component mask patterns provided insights into the summation rules within the gain pool. A widely used cross-channel masking model was tested on these data and was found to perform poorly. The model was developed and a version in which liner summation was allowed between all components within the gain pool but with the exception of the self-suppressing route typically provided the best account of the data. Subsequently, an adaptation paradigm was used to probe the processes underlying pooled responses in masking. This delivered less insight into the pooling than the other studies and areas were identified that require investigation for a new unifying model of masking and adaptation. In further experiments, levels of cross-channel masking were found to be greatly influenced by the spatio-temporal tuning of the channels involved. Old masking experiments and ideas relying on within-channel models were re-elevated in terms of contemporary cross-channel models (e.g. estimations of channel bandwidths from orientation masking functions) and this led to different conclusions than those originally arrived at. The investigation of effects with spatio-temporally superimposed patterns is focussed upon throughout this work, though it is shown how these enquiries might be extended to investigate effects across spatial and temporal position.