Correlation between neural responses and human perception in figure-ground segregation

Abstract

<jats:p>Segmentation of a natural scene into objects (figures) and background (ground) is one of crucial functions for object recognition and scene understanding. Recent studies have investigated neural mechanisms underlying figure-ground (FG) segregation and reported neural modulation to FG in the intermediate-level visual area, V4, of macaque monkeys (FG neurons). However, whether FG neurons contribute to the perception of FG segregation has not been clarified. To examine the contribution of FG neurons, we examined the correlations between perceptual consistency (PC), which quantified perceptual ambiguity in FG determination, and the reliability of neural signals in response to FG. First, we evaluated PCs for the images that were used in the previous neural recording in V4; specifically, we measured how consistently FG can be determined across trials and participants for each stimulus. The PCs were widely distributed, so that we identified the ambiguity in FG segregation for each stimulus. Next, we analyzed the correlation between the PCs and the reliability of neural modulation to FG. We found that the stimuli with higher PCs evoked more consistent and greater modulation in the responses of single neurons than those with lower PCs. Since perception is expected to show a greater correlation with responses of neural population compared to those of single neurons, we examined the correlation between the PCs and the consistency of the population responses in FG determination. Stimuli with higher PCs evoked higher population consistency than those with lower PCs. Finally, we analyzed the correlation between the PCs and neural latencies in FG modulation. We found that the stimuli with higher PCs showed shorter reaction times in FG perception and evoked shorter modulation latencies in FG neurons. These results indicate that the responses of FG neurons recorded from macaque monkeys show significant correlations with human FG perception, suggesting that V4 neurons with FG-dependent responses contribute to the perception of FG segregation.</jats:p>

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