Scene coherence can affect the local response to natural images in human V1

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Neurons in primary visual cortex (V1) can be indirectly affected by visual stimulation positioned outside their receptive fields. Although this contextual modulation has been intensely studied, we have little notion of how it manifests with naturalistic stimulation. Here, we investigated how the V1 response to a natural image fragment is affected by spatial context that is consistent or inconsistent with the scene from which it was extracted. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging at 7 T, we measured the blood oxygen level-dependent signal in human V1 (n = 8) while participants viewed an array of apertures. Most apertures showed fragments from a single scene, yielding a dominant perceptual interpretation which participants were asked to categorize, and the remaining apertures each showed fragments drawn from a set of 20 scenes. We find that the V1 response was significantly increased for apertures showing image structure that was coherent with the dominant scene relative to the response to the same image structure when it was non-coherent. Additional analyses suggest that this effect was mostly evident for apertures in the periphery of the visual field, that it peaked towards the centre of the aperture, and that it peaked in the middle to superficial regions of the cortical grey matter. These findings suggest that knowledge of typical spatial relationships is embedded in the circuitry of contextual modulation. Such mechanisms, possibly augmented by contributions from attentional factors, serve to increase the local V1 activity under conditions of contextual consistency. The local activity in human primary visual cortex, as measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging, was significantly higher for natural image patches that were coherent with the dominant scene than the activity elicited by the same patches when non-coherent. The effect of coherence was mostly evident for patches in the periphery of the visual field, in the centre of the image patches, and in the middle to superficial regions of the cortical gray matter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2895-2903
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and John Wiley and Sons Ltd.


  • Context
  • FMRI
  • Scene perception
  • Surround suppression
  • V1
  • Visual cortex


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