Visual symmetry in objects and gaps

Alexis D J Makin, Giulia Rampone, Alexander Wright, Jasna Martinovic, Marco Bertamini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


It is known that perceptual organization modulates the salience of visual symmetry. Reflectional symmetry is more quickly detected when it is a property of a single object than when it is formed by a gap between two objects. Translational symmetry shows the reverse effect, being more quickly detected when it is a gap between objects. We investigated the neural correlates of this interaction. Electroencephalographic data was recorded from 40 participants who were presented with reflected and translated contours in one- or two-object displays. Half of the participants discriminated regularity, half distinguished number of objects. An event-related potential known as the Sustained Posterior Negativity (SPN) distinguished between reflection and translation. A similar ERP distinguished between one and two object presentations, but these waves summed with the SPN, rather than altering it. All stimuli produced desynchronization of 8-13 Hz alpha oscillations over the bilateral parietal cortex. In the Discriminate Regularity group, this effect was right lateralized. The SPN and alpha desynchronization index different stages of visual symmetry discrimination. However, neither component displayed the Regularity × Objecthood interaction that is observed in speeded discrimination tasks, suggesting that integration of visual regularity with objectness is not inevitable. Instead, both attributes may be processed in parallel and independently.
Original languageEnglish
Article number12
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2014


  • symmetry
  • reflection
  • translation
  • ERPs
  • alpha desynchronization


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