Citation: Neural Networks, 17 , 707-718
Abstract: Perceptual grouping is well known to be a fundamental process during visual perception, notably grouping across scenic regions that do not receive contrastive visual inputs. Illusory contours are a classical example of such groupings. Recent psychophysical and neurophysiological evidence have shown that the grouping process can facilitate rapid synchronization of the cells that are bound together by a grouping, even when the grouping must be completed across regions that receive no contrastive inputs. Synchronous grouping can hereby bind together different object parts that may have become desynchronized due to a variety of factors, and can enhance the efficiency of cortical transmission. Neural models of perceptual grouping have clarified how such fast synchronization may occur by using bipole grouping cells, whose predicted properties have been supported by psychophysical, anatomical, and neurophysiological experiments. These models have not, however, incorporated some of the realistic constraints in which groupings in the brain are conditioned, notably the measured spatial extent of long-range interactions in layer 2/3 of a grouping network, and realistic synaptic and axonal signaling delays within and across cells in different cortical layers. This work addresses the question: Can long-range interactions that obey the bipole constraint achieve fast synchronization under realistic anatomical and neurophysiological constraints that initially desynchronize grouping signals? Can the cells that synchronize retain their analog sensitivity to changing input amplitudes? Can the grouping process complete and synchronize illusory contours across gaps in bottom-up inputs? Our simulations show that the answer to these questions is Yes.