Abstract

It is known that the perceived color of an object depends on the context in which it is viewed, its reflectance properties and the spectral distribution of the illuminating light. What is not known, however, is how the visual system functions so that color percepts depend upon the integration of local and contextual cues. While phenomenological theories of color vision exist, robust neurally based theories consistent with psychophysical observations are sparse. In the present study we develop such a theory and establish its self-consistency by computer simulations of cerebral cortical areas involved in color perception. The simulations test the hypothesis that long-range reciprocal connections within and between cortical areas mediate a dynamic process of reentry that integrates contextual cues into the color percept. When stimuli similar to those used in psychophysical testing of contextual influence were used, firing patterns consistent with psychophysical data on color constancy and color induction in humans were observed. Selective disruption of reciprocal inter- or intra-areal connections reduced the correspondence between the model's responses and the psychophysical data. The findings are consistent with the proposal that reentrant interactions within and between cortical areas provide a major basis for the context-sensitive aspects of color vision.