Chromatic contrast in luminance-defined images affects performance and neural activity during a shape classification task

Ben J Jennings, Jasna Martinovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Models of object recognition generally emphasize the importance of luminance-defined shape. However, it is still not fully understood how color signals combine with luminance signals to affect object-related form processing. This electroencephalographic study aimed to examine the contribution of chromatic contrast by assessing its effects on the time course of shape-related processing. Participants classified Gaborized images of object shapes, nonobject shapes, and patches of pseudorandomly scattered Gabors. Stimuli excited (a) the luminance (L+M) channel alone, (b) luminance and L-M channels, or (c) luminance, L-M, and S-(L+M) channels and were presented either at mean discrimination threshold or at twice this mean threshold. As expected, classification accuracy was comparable at threshold, as were the attributes of the early, perceptual first negative (N1) component of the event-related potential (ERP). Differences emerged at suprathreshold: Objects defined by the full combination of channels were associated with the poorest performance and the lowest N1 amplitude. Shape sensitivity was not consistently observed in the N1 but was more evident in the late positive potential (LPP), a cognitive ERP component. Both the N1 and the LPP were affected by the amount and type of contrast in the image. While the effects of luminance and L-M contrast were similar, affecting the ERP selectively during the N1 and LPP period, S-(L+M) contrast elicited a sustained shift in amplitude. Our results demonstrate, for the first time using a combination of behavioral as well as early and late electrophysiological effects, that shape classification is determined by both the chromatic and the luminance content of the image.
Original languageEnglish
Article number21
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Funded by BBSRC funded grant, BB/H019731/1.


  • object representation
  • shape perception
  • luminance
  • chromatic mechanisms
  • contrast
  • EEG


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