The perceptual consequences of visual loss: 'positive' pathologies of vision.
Fifty patients with visual hallucinations and illusions secondary to degenerative eye disease reported remarkably stereotyped experiences. Questionnaire responses revealed five previously recognized categories of pathological vision (perseveration, illusory visual spread, polyopia, prosopometamorphopsia and micro/macropsia) and three novel categories (tessellopsia, hyperchromatopsia and dendropsia). Identical pathologies of vision occur in a range of clinical and experimental settings, suggesting that they reflect fundamental visual processes. The known neurophysiology of the visual cortex helps explain the phenomenology of the experiences and provides the basis for a neurobiologically based classification of positive and negative visual perceptual disorders. (+info
Illusory arm movements activate cortical motor areas: a positron emission tomography study.
Vibration at approximately 70 Hz on the biceps tendon elicits a vivid illusory arm extension. Nobody has examined which areas in the brain are activated when subjects perceive this kinesthetic illusion. The illusion was hypothesized to originate from activations of somatosensory areas normally engaged in kinesthesia. The locations of the microstructurally defined cytoarchitectonic areas of the primary motor (4a and 4p) and primary somatosensory cortex (3a, 3b, and 1) were obtained from population maps of these areas in standard anatomical format. The regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was measured with (15)O-butanol and positron emission tomography in nine subjects. The left biceps tendon was vibrated at 10 Hz (LOW), at 70 or 80 Hz (ILLUSION), or at 220 or 240 Hz (HIGH). A REST condition with eyes closed was included in addition. Only the 70 and 80 Hz vibrations elicited strong illusory arm extensions in all subjects without any electromyographic activity in the arm muscles. When the rCBF of the ILLUSION condition was contrasted to the LOW and HIGH conditions, we found two clusters of activations, one in the supplementary motor area (SMA) extending into the caudal cingulate motor area (CMAc) and the other in area 4a extending into the dorsal premotor cortex (PMd) and area 4p. When LOW, HIGH, and ILLUSION were contrasted to REST, giving the main effect of vibration, areas 4p, 3b, and 1, the frontal and parietal operculum, and the insular cortex were activated. Thus, with the exception of area 4p, the effects of vibration and illusion were associated with disparate cortical areas. This indicates that the SMA, CMAc, PMd, and area 4a were activated associated with the kinesthetic illusion. Thus, against our expectations, motor areas rather than somatosensory areas seem to convey the illusion of limb movement. (+info
Motion-based mechanisms of illusory contour synthesis.
Neurophysiological studies and computational models of illusory contour formation have focused on contour orientation as the underlying determinant of illusory contour shape in both static and moving displays. Here, we report a class of motion-induced illusory contours that demonstrate the existence of novel mechanisms of illusory contour synthesis. In a series of experiments, we show that the velocity of contour terminations and the direction of motion of a partially occluded figure regulate the perceived shape and apparent movement of illusory contours formed from moving image sequences. These results demonstrate the existence of neural mechanisms that reconstruct occlusion relationships from both real and inferred image velocities, in contrast to the static geometric mechanisms that have been the focus of studies to date. (+info
Explaining the moon illusion.
An old explanation of the moon illusion holds that various cues place the horizon moon at an effectively greater distance than the elevated moon. Although both moons have the same angular size, the horizon moon must be perceived as larger. More recent explanations hold that differences in accommodation or other factors cause the elevated moon to appear smaller. As a result of this illusory difference in size, the elevated moon appears to be more distant than the horizon moon. These two explanations, both based on the geometry of stereopsis, lead to two diametrically opposed hypotheses. That is, a depth interval at a long distance is associated with a smaller binocular disparity, whereas an equal depth interval at a smaller distance is associated with a larger disparity. We conducted experiments involving artificial moons and confirmed the hypothesis that the horizon moon is at a greater perceptual distance. Moreover, when a moon of constant angular size was moved closer it was also perceived as growing smaller, which is consistent with the older explanation. Although Emmert's law does not predict the size-distance relationship over long distances, we conclude that the horizon moon is perceived as larger because the perceptual system treats it as though it is much farther away. Finally, we observe that recent explanations substitute perceived size for angular size as a cue to distance. Thus, they imply that perceptions cause perceptions. (+info
Visual neuroscience: illuminating the dark corners.
Recent experiments suggest that our perception of lightness involves a sophisticated interpretation of illumination and shadow. This finding challenges common notions about hierarchical processing and the neural basis of perception. (+info
Afterimages, grating induction and illusory phantoms.
Under some conditions (dark or light inspection areas) illusory gratings often appear to be in-phase with the inducing gratings and under others (gray inspection area) illusory gratings often appear to be out-of-phase with the inducing gratings. McCourt reported that point-by-point brightness matches reveal only out-of-phase illusory gratings, no matter what the luminance of the inspection area (McCourt, M. E. (1994). Vision Research, 34, 1609-1617). Since the technique used might have led to afterimages which mimic out-of-phase illusory gratings, the present series of experiments was undertaken to determine how such afterimages might bias illusory grating judgments. Afterimages were induced during fixation with brief flashes of inducing gratings within the inspection area (Experiment 1), or by vertical shifts in the entire stimulus which exposed the retina to real gratings prior to judgments within the inspection area (Experiment 2). Experiment 2 was replicated with drifting inducing gratings (Experiment 3). The subjects were asked to indicate whether illusory gratings appeared in- or out-of-phase. The results of all three experiments reveal that out-of-phase illusory gratings predominate, and that afterimages can only bias judgments with stationary displays. It is suggested that grating induction is perceived when subjects attend to local contrast differences, while phantom visibility is facilitated when attention is captured by the more global aspects of the stimulus. (+info
Illusions in reasoning about consistency.
Reasoners succumb to predictable illusions in evaluating whether sets of assertions are consistent. We report two studies of this computationally intractable task of "satisfiability." The results show that as the number of possibilities compatible with the assertions increases, the difficulty of the task increases, and that reasoners represent what is true according to assertions, not what is false. This procedure avoids overloading memory, but it yields illusions of consistency and of inconsistency. These illusions modify our picture of human rationality. (+info
Reaching during virtual rotation: context specific compensations for expected coriolis forces.
Subjects who are in an enclosed chamber rotating at constant velocity feel physically stationary but make errors when pointing to targets. Reaching paths and endpoints are deviated in the direction of the transient inertial Coriolis forces generated by their arm movements. By contrast, reaching movements made during natural, voluntary torso rotation seem to be accurate, and subjects are unaware of the Coriolis forces generated by their movements. This pattern suggests that the motor plan for reaching movements uses a representation of body motion to prepare compensations for impending self-generated accelerative loads on the arm. If so, stationary subjects who are experiencing illusory self-rotation should make reaching errors when pointing to a target. These errors should be in the direction opposite the Coriolis accelerations their arm movements would generate if they were actually rotating. To determine whether such compensations exist, we had subjects in four experiments make visually open-loop reaches to targets while they were experiencing compelling illusory self-rotation and displacement induced by rotation of a complex, natural visual scene. The paths and endpoints of their initial reaching movements were significantly displaced leftward during counterclockwise illusory rotary displacement and rightward during clockwise illusory self-displacement. Subjects reached in a curvilinear path to the wrong place. These reaching errors were opposite in direction to the Coriolis forces that would have been generated by their arm movements during actual torso rotation. The magnitude of path curvature and endpoint errors increased as the speed of illusory self-rotation increased. In successive reaches, movement paths became straighter and endpoints more accurate despite the absence of visual error feedback or tactile feedback about target location. When subjects were again presented a stationary scene, their initial reaches were indistinguishable from pre-exposure baseline, indicating a total absence of aftereffects. These experiments demonstrate that the nervous system automatically compensates in a context-specific fashion for the Coriolis forces associated with reaching movements. (+info