Flexibility of spatial averaging in visual perception

Tania Lombrozo, Jeff Judson, Donald I.A. MacLeod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The classical receptive field (RF) concept-the idea that a visual neuron responds to fixed parts and properties of a stimulus-has been challenged by a series of recent physiological results. Here, we extend these findings to human vision, demonstrating that the extent of spatial averaging in contrast perception is also flexible, depending strongly on stimulus contrast and uniformity. At low contrast, spatial averaging is greatest (about 11 min of arc) within uniform regions such as edges, as expected if the relevant neurons have orientation-selective RFs. At high contrast, spatial averaging is minimal. These results can be understood if the visual system is balancing a trade-off between noise reduction, which favours large areas of averaging, and detail preservation, which favours minimal averaging. Two distinct populations of neurons with hard-wired RFs could account for our results, as could the more intriguing possibility of dynamic, contrast-dependent RFs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)725-732
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1564
StatePublished - Apr 7 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Anisotropy
  • Contrast perception
  • Spatial integration


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