Boundary completion is automatic and dissociable from shape discrimination

Micah M. Murray, Michelle L. Imber, Daniel C. Javitt, John J. Foxe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Normal visual perception readily overcomes suboptimal or degraded viewing conditions through perceptual filling-in processes, enhancing object recognition and discrimination abilities. This study used visual evoked potential (VEP) recordings in conjunction with electrical neuroimaging analyses to determine the spatiotemporal brain dynamics of boundary completion and shape discrimination processes in healthy humans performing the so-called "thin/fat" discrimination task (Ringach and Shapley, 1996) with stimuli producing illusory contours. First, results suggest that boundary completion processes occur independent of subjects' accuracy on the discrimination task. Modulation of the VEP to the presence versus absence of illusory contours [the IC effect (Murray et al., 2002)] was indistinguishable in terms of response magnitude and scalp topography over the 124-186 ms poststimulus period, regardless of whether task performance was correct. This suggests that failure on this discrimination task is not primarily a consequence of failed boundary completion. Second, the electrophysiological correlates of thin/fat shape discrimination processes are temporally dissociable from those of boundary completion, occurring during a substantially later phase of processing (∼330-406 ms). The earlier IC effect was unaffected by whether the perceived contour produced a thin or fat shape. In contrast, later time periods of the VEP modulated according to perceived shape only in the case of stimuli producing illusory contours, but not for control stimuli for which performance was at near-chance levels. Collectively, these data provide further support for a multistage model of object processing under degraded viewing conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12043-12054
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 15 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Binding
  • ERP
  • Event-related potential
  • Illusory contour
  • Object recognition
  • Shape discrimination
  • VEP
  • Visual evoked potential

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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