Binding of motion and colour is early and automatic


  • Erik Blaser,

    1. University of Massachusetts Boston, Department of Psychology, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, Massachusetts 02125 USA
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  • Thomas Papathomas,

    1. Rutgers University, Laboratory of Vision Research and Department of Biomedical Engineering, 152 Frelinghuysen Road, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854 USA
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  • Zoltán Vidnyánszky

    1. Neurobiology Research Group, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Semmelweis University, 1094 Budapest, Hungary
    2. Faculty of Information Technology, Péter Pázmány Catholic University, Budapest, H-1083, Hungary
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Drs Erik Blaser & Zoltán Vidnyánszky, as above.


At what stages of the human visual hierarchy different features are bound together, and whether this binding requires attention, is still highly debated. We used a colour-contingent motion after-effect (CCMAE) to study the binding of colour and motion signals. The logic of our approach was as follows: if CCMAEs can be evoked by targeted adaptation of early motion processing stages, without allowing for feedback from higher motion integration stages, then this would support our hypothesis that colour and motion are bound automatically on the basis of spatiotemporally local information. Our results show for the first time that CCMAE's can be evoked by adaptation to a locally paired opposite-motion dot display, a stimulus that, importantly, is known to trigger direction-specific responses in the primary visual cortex yet results in strong inhibition of the directional responses in area MT of macaques as well as in area MT+ in humans and, indeed, is perceived only as motionless flicker. The magnitude of the CCMAE in the locally paired condition was not significantly different from control conditions where the different directions were spatiotemporally separated (i.e. not locally paired) and therefore perceived as two moving fields. These findings provide evidence that adaptation at an early, local motion stage, and only adaptation at this stage, underlies this CCMAE, which in turn implies that spatiotemporally coincident colour and motion signals are bound automatically, most probably as early as cortical area V1, even when the association between colour and motion is perceptually inaccessible.