The representation of color across the human visual cortex

distinguishing chromatic signals contributing to object form versus surface color

K. J. Seymour*, M. A. Williams, A. N. Rich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)


Many theories of visual object perception assume the visual system initially extracts borders between objects and their background and then "fills in" color to the resulting object surfaces. We investigated the transformation of chromatic signals across the human ventral visual stream, with particular interest in distinguishing representations of object surface color from representations of chromatic signals reflecting the retinal input. We used fMRI to measure brain activity while participants viewed figure-ground stimuli that differed either in the position or in the color contrast polarity of the foreground object (the figure). Multivariate pattern analysis revealed that classifiers were able to decode information about which color was presented at a particular retinal location from early visual areas, whereas regions further along the ventral stream exhibited biases for representing color as part of an object's surface, irrespective of its position on the retina. Additional analyses showed that although activity in V2 contained strong chromatic contrast information to support the early parsing of objects within a visual scene, activity in this area also signaled information about object surface color. These findings are consistent with the view that mechanisms underlying scene segmentation and the binding of color to object surfaces converge in V2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1997-2005
Number of pages9
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016

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