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Invariance of surface color representations across illuminant changes in the human cortex

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Bannert,  MM
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Bartels,  A
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Bannert, M., & Bartels, A. (2017). Invariance of surface color representations across illuminant changes in the human cortex. NeuroImage, 158, 356-370. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.06.079.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0000-C2B8-5
Abstract
A central problem in color vision is that the light reaching the eye from a given surface can vary dramatically depending on the illumination. Despite this, our color percept, the brain's estimate of surface reflectance, remains remarkably stable. This phenomenon is called color constancy. Here we investigated which human brain regions represent surface color in a way that is invariant with respect to illuminant changes. We used physically realistic rendering methods to display natural yet abstract 3D scenes that were displayed under three distinct illuminants. The scenes embedded, in different conditions, surfaces that differed in their surface color (i.e. in their reflectance property). We used multivariate fMRI pattern analysis to probe neural coding of surface reflectance and illuminant, respectively. While all visual regions encoded surface color when viewed under the same illuminant, we found that only in V1 and V4α surface color representations were invariant to illumination changes. Along the visual hierarchy there was a gradient from V1 to V4α to increasingly encode surface color rather than illumination. Finally, effects of a stimulus manipulation on individual behavioral color constancy indices correlated with neural encoding of the illuminant in hV4. This provides neural evidence for the Equivalent Illuminant Model. Our results provide a principled characterization of color constancy mechanisms across the visual hierarchy, and demonstrate complementary contributions in early and late processing stages.