Sensitivity to curvature deformations along closed contours
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Human observers are exquisitely sensitive to curvature deformations along a circular closed contour (Wilkinson, Wilson, & Habak, 1998; Hess, Wang, & Dakin, 1999; Loffler, Wilson, & Wilkinson, 2003). Such remarkable sensitivity has been attributed to the curvature encoding scheme used by V4 neurons, which typically are assumed to be equally sensitive to curvature at all polar angles (Pasupathy & Connor, 2001, 2002; Carlson, Rasquinha, Zhang, & Connor, 2011). To test the assumption that detection thresholds for curvature deformations are invariant across polar angles, we used a novel stimulus class we call Difference of Gaussian (DoG) contours that allowed us to independently manipulate the amplitude, angular frequency, and polar angle of curvature of a closed-contour shape while measuring contour-curvature thresholds. Our results demonstrate that (a) detection thresholds were higher when observers were uncertain about the location of the curvature deformation, but on average, thresholds did not vary significantly across 24 polar angles; (b) the direction and magnitude of the oblique effect varies across individuals; (c) there is a strong association between detecting a contour deformation and identifying its location; (d) curvature detectors may serve as labeled lines.
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