Size tuning and contextual modulation of backward contrast masking
The strength of contrast masking depends not only on spatial but also on temporal parameters. In a previous study (T. P. Saarela & M. H. Herzog, 2008), we showed that the detection of a briefly presented Gabor patch is most strongly impaired when an iso-oriented grating mask immediately follows the Gabor and that this masking effect is relieved when a surround is added to the mask. Here, we studied the spatial characteristics of this backward masking effect. Gradually changing the size of the iso-oriented masking grating changes contrast detection thresholds in a non-monotonic way that can be explained in terms of contrast-dependent spatial summation and inhibition. However, these spatial interactions seem only to take place when the mask is a uniform grating. When the mask is divided into a small center and a larger surround by changing the surround parameters or by adding a small gap, masking is as strong as with the small center mask only. We suggest that spatial interactions are weaker or even absent when the stimulus elements are perceptually segregated.