Spatial and temporal dependencies of cross-orientation suppression in human vision.

Timothy S. Meese*, David J. Holmes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A well-known property of orientation-tuned neurons in the visual cortex is that they are suppressed by the superposition of an orthogonal mask. This phenomenon has been explained in terms of physiological constraints (synaptic depression), engineering solutions for components with poor dynamic range (contrast normalization) and fundamental coding strategies for natural images (redundancy reduction). A common but often tacit assumption is that the suppressive process is equally potent at different spatial and temporal scales of analysis. To determine whether it is so, we measured psychophysical cross-orientation masking (XOM) functions for flickering horizontal Gabor stimuli over wide ranges of spatio-temporal frequency and contrast. We found that orthogonal masks raised contrast detection thresholds substantially at low spatial frequencies and high temporal frequencies (high speeds), and that small and unexpected levels of facilitation were evident elsewhere. The data were well fit by a functional model of contrast gain control, where (i) the weight of suppression increased with the ratio of temporal to spatial frequency and (ii) the weight of facilitatory modulation was the same for all conditions, but outcompeted by suppression at higher contrasts. These results (i) provide new constraints for models of primary visual cortex, (ii) associate XOM and facilitation with the transient magno- and sustained parvostreams, respectively, and (iii) reconcile earlier conflicting psychophysical reports on XOM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-136
Number of pages10
JournalProceeding of the Royal Society: Series B
Issue number1606
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2007


  • contrast gain control
  • cross-orientation inhibition
  • human vision
  • masking
  • psychophysics


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