Building surfaces from borders in Areas 17 and 18 of the cat

Chou P. Hung, Benjamin M. Ramsden, Li Min Chen, Anna Wang Roe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Several brightness illusions indicate that borders can dramatically affect the perception of adjoining surfaces. In the Craik-O'Brien-Cornsweet illusion, in particular, two equiluminant surfaces can appear different in brightness due to the contrast border between them. Although the psychophysical nature of this phenomenon has been well characterized, the neural circuitry underlying this effect is unexplored. Here, we have asked whether there are cells in visual cortex which respond to edge-induced illusory brightness percepts such as the Cornsweet. Using optical imaging and single unit recordings methods, we have studied responses of the primary (Area 17) and second (Area 18) visual cortical areas of the anesthetized cat to both real luminance change and Cornsweet brightness change. We find that there are indeed cells whose responses are modulated in phase with the modulation of the Cornsweet stimulus. These cells are present in both Area 17 and Area 18, but are more prevalent in Area 18. These responses are generally weak and are found even when receptive fields are distant from the contrast border. Consistent with perception, cells which respond to the Cornsweet border are modulated in antiphase to the Narrow Real (another border-induced illusory brightness stimulus). Remarkably, we also find evidence of edge-induced responses to illusory brightness change using intrinsic signal optical imaging. Both real luminance change and edge-induced brightness change produces a greater imaged response in Area 18 than in Area 17. Thus, in the absence of direct luminance stimulation, cells in visual cortex can respond to modulation of distant border contrasts. We suggest that the perception of surface brightness was encoded in the early visual cortical pathway by both surface luminance contrast signals in Area 17 (Rossi, A. F., Rittenhouse, C. D., & Paradiso, M. A. (1996). The representation of brightness in primary visual cortex. Science, 273, 1104-7) and border-induced contrast signals that predominate in Area 18.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1389-1407
Number of pages19
JournalVision Research
Issue number10-11
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Area 18
  • Brightness illusion
  • Cat
  • Cornsweet
  • Optical imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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