Visibility of Brief Images: The Dual-Process Approach

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If successive, brief visual images are exposed for recognition or for psychophysical ratings, various effects and phenomena of fast dynamics of conscious perception such as mutual masking, metacontrast, proactive enhancement of contrast, proactive speed-up of the latency of subjective visual experience, the Fröhlich Effect, the Tandem Effect, attentional facilitation by visuospatial precuing, and some others have been found. The theory proposed to deal with these phenomena proceeds from the assumption that two types of brain processes are necessary in order to consciously recognize visual stimuli: (1) fast, specific processes of encoding that allocate and reactivate the stimulus representation which is based on the activity of selected cortical neurons and (2) relatively slower processes of facilitation of the activity of this specific representation that are mediated by the excitatory modulation of the EPSPs of those selected cortical neurons by the ascending input from nonspecific thalamus. The perceptual retouch construct is proposed in order to characterize and analyze the interaction of (1) and (2). The neurophysiological characteristics of this bifunctional system of afference help to put forward several predictions that are found to be consistent with the empirical regularities of the above-described perceptual-attentional phenomena. These data form a body of converging evidence that is consistent with the predictions of the perceptual retouch approach.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Portsmouth, King Henry Building, Portsmouth, PO1 2DY, United Kingdom

Publication date: December 1, 1997

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