Suppression and summation in contrast gain control for human vision

Timothy S. Meese, Mark A. Georgeson, Daniel H. Baker, David J. Holmes, Kirsten L. Challinor, Robert J. Summers

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Over the last ten years our understanding of early spatial vision has improved enormously. The long-standing model of probability summation amongst multiple independent mechanisms with static output nonlinearities responsible for masking is obsolete. It has been replaced by a much more complex network of additive, suppressive, and facilitatory interactions and nonlinearities across eyes, area, spatial frequency, and orientation that extend well beyond the classical recep-tive field (CRF). A review of a substantial body of psychophysical work performed by ourselves (20 papers), and others, leads us to the following tentative account of the processing path for signal contrast. The first suppression stage is monocular, isotropic, non-adaptable, accelerates with RMS contrast, most potent for low spatial and high temporal frequencies, and extends slightly beyond the CRF. Second and third stages of suppression are difficult to disentangle but are possibly pre- and post-binocular summation, and involve components that are scale invariant, isotropic, anisotropic, chromatic, achromatic, adaptable, interocular, substantially larger than the CRF, and saturated by contrast. The monocular excitatory pathways begin with half-wave rectification, followed by a preliminary stage of half-binocular summation, a square-law transducer, full binocular summation, pooling over phase, cross-mechanism facilitatory interactions, additive noise, linear summation over area, and a slightly uncertain decision-maker. The purpose of each of these interactions is far from clear, but the system benefits from area and binocular summation of weak contrast signals as well as area and ocularity invariances above threshold (a herd of zebras doesn't change its contrast when it increases in number or when you close one eye). One of many remaining challenges is to determine the stage or stages of spatial tuning in the excitatory pathway.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2009
EventApplied Vision Association Annual 2009 Meeting - Birmingham , United Kingdom
Duration: 31 Mar 2009 → …


OtherApplied Vision Association Annual 2009 Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Period31/03/09 → …

Bibliographical note

Abstract published in Perception, 38(4), p. 627. ISSN: 0301-0066.


  • early spatial vision
  • probability summation
  • multiple independent mechanisms
  • static output nonlinearities
  • masking
  • interactions
  • nonlinearities
  • eyes
  • area
  • spatial frequency
  • orientation
  • classical recep-tive field
  • CRF
  • signal contrast


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