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Visual backward masking:

Effects of mask homogeneity


1 2
Frouke Hermens , Megi Sharikadze , Michael H. Herzog1

1) Laboratory of Psychophysics, Brain Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne, Switzerland
2) Laboratory of Vision Physiology, Institute of Physiology, Georgian Academy of Sciences, Georgia

Introduction
In visual backward masking studies, the focus has been mainly on temporal aspects, while ignoring the
effects of the spatial layout of target and mask. Here, we show that masking strength depends in subtle
ways on the spatial layout of the mask. Our results suggest that the more irregular the mask is, the more it
will mask the target. Simulations with a Wilson-Cowan type model show that the effects of regularity on
masking can, in part, be explained by a neural network having lateral connections only.

Experiment 1 Experiment 2
(b) Extending two lines in a grating mask (a) has a profound We varied mask regularity by varying the number of
effect on masking strength. different line lengths and the spatial distribution of
(c) Extending every second line, however, slightly changes the elements across the mask (the preceding vernier
vernier offset discrimination. is not shown here).
(a) (b) (c)
A Two line lengths,
0-20 ms regular,
symmetric

B Two line lengths,


20-300 ms random

C Three line lengths,


Threshold 49” 259” 84” asymmetric

Wilson-Cowan type model D


Seven line lengths,
symmetric
We

E
Seven line lengths,
Excitatory layer
Asymmetric

Wi We

Inhibitory layer
Experiment 2: Results
V

Wi
Experimental data
V 200 Model prediction
Threshold (arcsec)

180

160
Stimulus
(300x140 140
pixels) 120

100

80

Experiment 1: Simulation results 60

40
Strong
T = 22 ms T = 30 ms T = 80 ms 20
vernier
trace 0
Exp 1a A B C D E
(a)
Mask
Weak
T = 22 ms T = 30 ms T = 80 ms
vernier Conclusions
trace
Masking strength depends on the spatial layout
(b) of the mask, and in particular on:

T = 22 ms T = 30 ms T = 80 ms
* The number of irregular elements in the mask
Trace * The location of the irregular elements in the mask
slightly
(c) stronger
Simulations with a Wilson-Cowan type network
than in
(b) show that lateral inhibitions can, in part, explain
the effects of mask inhomogeneity.

http://lpsy.epfl.ch/ Corresponding author: frouke.hermens@epfl.ch