Figure and ground in the visual cortex: V2 combines stereoscopic cues with Gestalt rules

Fangtu T. Qiu, Rüdiger Von Der Heydt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

181 Scopus citations


Figure-ground organization is a process by which the visual system identifies some image regions as foreground and others as background, inferring 3D layout from 2D displays. A recent study reported that edge responses of neurons in area V2 are selective for side-of-figure, suggesting that figure-ground organization is encoded in the contour signals (border ownership coding). Here, we show that area V2 combines two strategies of computation, one that exploits binocular stereoscopic information for the definition of local depth order, and another that exploits the global configuration of contours (Gestalt factors). These are combined in single neurons so that the "near" side of the preferred 3D edge generally coincides with the preferred side-of-figure in 2D displays. Thus, area V2 represents the borders of 2D figures as edges of surfaces, as if the figures were objects in 3D space. Even in 3D displays, Gestalt factors influence the responses and can enhance or null the stereoscopic depth information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-166
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 7 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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