Signal integration in human visual speed perception

Matjaz Jogan and Alan A Stocker
Journal of Neuroscience, 35(25):9381–9390, June 2015. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4801-14.2015

Object motion in natural scenes results in visual stimuli with a rich and broad spatiotemporal frequency spectrum. While it is fairly well studied how the visual system detects and senses motion energies at different spatial and temporal frequencies, it is unclear how it integrates this information in order to form coherent percepts of object motion. We applied a combination of tailored psychophysical experiments and predictive modeling to address this question with regard to perceived motion in a given direction (i.e., stimulus speed). We tested human subjects in a discrimination experiment using stimuli that selectively targeted four distinct spatiotemporally tuned channels with center-frequencies consistent with a common speed. We first characterized subjects' responses to stimuli that targeted only individual channels. Based on these measurements we then predicted subjects' psychometric functions for stimuli that targeted multiple channels simultaneously. Specifically, we compared predictions of three Bayesian observer models that either optimally integrated the information across all spatiotemporal channels, or only used information from the most reliable channel, or formed an average percept across channels. Only the model with optimal integration was successful in accounting for the data. Furthermore, the proposed channel model provides an intuitive explanation for the previously reported spatial frequency dependence of perceived speed of coherent object motion. Finally, our findings indicate that a prior expectation for slow speeds is added to the inference process only after the sensory information is combined and integrated.

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