Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 July 1999
Recovering the velocity of objects moving in the visual field requires both the integration and segmentation of local neuronal responses elicited by moving stimuli in primary visual cortex. Herein, we investigate the effects of the contrast, density, spatial proximity, spatial frequency, and spatial configuration of component motions on these complementary processes. Measuring the ability of human observers to discriminate the global direction of motion displays composed of spatially distributed patches of drifting gratings whose motion is locally ambiguous, we provide psychophysical evidence that linking component motion across space is facilitated at low contrast and high patch density. Furthermore, direction discrimination depends on the spatial frequency of component gratings and is more accurate for spatial configurations that contain “virtual” L junctions as compared to configurations composed of “virtual” T junctions. We suggest that the conditions yielding global motion coherence can be accounted for by the existence of anisotropic cooperative/competitive, contrast-dependent, long-range interactions among oriented direction-selective units. In addition, we bring evidence that motion segmentation processes rely upon the processing of moving local spatial discontinuities. The results are discussed in the light of recent psychophysical and physiological evidence that long-range excitatory and inhibitory interactions within primary visual cortex modulate perceptual linking.