Individual differences in the dynamics of collinear facilitation?

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Collinear facilitation refers to the increase in sensitivity found for a target when aligned between nearby, brighter flankers. Many studies have explored the spatial and temporal aspects of this arrangement, and there is a consensus that two mechanisms could be responsible for this phenomenon; lateral excitation within V1 and extra-striate feedback to V1. There is some debate as to whether facilitation can still occur if the target is presented before the flankers, a manipulation known as backward masking, which could rely on feedback to V1. We shed light on this debate by using forward, simultaneous and backward masking with a relatively large sample of 26 participants. We used short stimulus presentation times (35 ms) and a range of SOAs (stimulus onset asynchronies) (−70, −35, 0, 35 and 70 ms) in order to isolate any feedback facilitation that may occur. We found that collinear facilitation occurred with forward masking (+ve SOAs) in all participants. However, facilitation with backward masking (−ve SOAs) only occurred in 54% of participants. We present a basic model of facilitation that simulates the results of our experiment and could account for differences between previous studies. The model indicates that facilitation with backward masking arises primarily from feedback excitation. Our findings suggest that both lateral connectivity and extra-striate feedback contribute to target facilitation, but in fundamentally different ways and that feedback may be significantly reduced in some participants.

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