Estimation of the parameters of a boundary contour system using psychophysical hyperacuity experiments
Visual hyperacuity enables observers to make accurate judgments of the relative positions of stimuli when the differences are smaller than the size of a single cone in the fovea. Because hyperacuity can serve as a gauge for precisely measuring characteristics of the visual system, it can provide stringent tests for models of the visual system. A variant of the Boundary Contour System (BCS) model is here used to clarify previously unexplained psychophysical hyperacuity results involving contrast polarity, stimulus separation, and sinusoidal masking gratings. Two-dot alignment thresholds were studied by Levi & Waugh (1996) by varying the gap between the dots, with same and opposite contrast polarity with respect to the background, and also with and without band-limited sinusoidal grating masks of different orientations. They found that when the gap between the dots is small (6 arcmin), different patterns of misalignment thresholds are obtained for the same and different contrast polarity conditions. However, when the gap is large (24 arcmin), the same pattern of thresholds was obtained irrespective of contrast polarity. The simulations presented here replicate these findings, producing the same pattern of results when varying the gap between the dots, with same and opposite contrast polarity with respect to the background, and also with and without sinusoidal grating masks of different orientations. The vision model used (BCS) is able to produce these patterns because of its inherent processing using contrast insensitivity, spatial and oriented competition, and long-range completion layers. A novel aspect of the model is the use of sampled field processing, which simplifies the model's equations. Modified Hebbian learning and a neural decision module are proposed as mechanisms that link the vision model's outputs to a decision criterion. All model parts have plausible neurobiological correlates. In addition, psychophysical hyperacuity experiments served to map the limits of inhibitory spatial interactions. The results show that inhibition occurs even when only half of the split flanking line of Badcock & Westheimer (1985b) is used, suggesting that subthreshold activity in units representing the line extends beyond the end of the line. Furthermore, strong inhibition was observed with a flanking illusory line grating.
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