Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
In a backward masking paradigm, a target stimulus is rapidly (<100 msec) followed by a second stimulus. This typically results in a dramatic decrease in the visibility of the target stimulus. It has been shown that masking reduces responses in V1. It is not known, however, which process in V1 is affected by the mask. In the past, we have shown that in V1, modulations of neural activity that are specifically related to figure-ground segregation can be recorded. Here, we recorded from awake macaque monkeys, engaged in a task where they had to detect figures from background in a pattern backward masking paradigm. We show that the V1 figure-ground signals are selectively and fully suppressed at target-mask intervals that psychophysically result in the target being invisible. Initial response transients, signalling the features that make up the scene, are not affected. As figure-ground modulations depend on feedback from extrastriate areas, these results suggest that masking selectively interrupts the recurrent interactions between V1 and higher visual areas.