Journal of Computational Neuroscience

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 255–282

A computational model to link psychophysics and cortical cell activation patterns in human texture processing


DOI: 10.1007/s10827-006-0011-9

Cite this article as:
Thielscher, A. & Neumann, H. J Comput Neurosci (2007) 22: 255. doi:10.1007/s10827-006-0011-9


The human visual system uses texture information to automatically, or pre-attentively, segregate parts of the visual scene. We investigate the neural substrate underlying human texture processing using a computational model that consists of a hierarchy of bi-directionally linked model areas. The model builds upon two key hypotheses, namely that (i) texture segregation is based on boundary detection—rather than clustering of homogeneous items—and (ii) texture boundaries are detected mainly on the basis of a large scenic context that is analyzed by higher cortical areas within the ventral visual pathway, such as area V4. Here, we focus on the interpretation of key results from psychophysical studies on human texture segmentation. In psychophysical studies, texture patterns were varied along several feature dimensions to systematically characterize human performance. We use simulations to demonstrate that the activation patterns of our model directly correlate with the psychophysical results. This allows us to identify the putative neural mechanisms and cortical key areas which underlie human behavior. In particular, we investigate (i) the effects of varying texture density on target saliency, and the impact of (ii) element alignment and (iii) orientation noise on the detectability of a pop-out bar. As a result, we demonstrate that the dependency of target saliency on texture density is linked to a putative receptive field organization of orientation-selective neurons in V4. The effect of texture element alignment is related to grouping mechanisms in early visual areas. Finally, the modulation of cell activity by feedback activation from higher model areas, interacting with mechanisms of intra-areal center-surround competition, is shown to result in the specific suppression of noise-related cell activities and to improve the overall model capabilities in texture segmentation. In particular, feedback interaction is crucial to raise the model performance to the level of human observers.


Texture processingPsychophysicsVisual searchNeural modelContext modulation

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of UlmUlmGermany
  2. 2.Department of Neural Information ProcessingUniversity of UlmUlmGermany
  3. 3.Department UgurbilMax Planck Institute for Biological CyberneticsTübingenGermany