We compare the performance of the red-green, blue-yellow and luminance postreceptoral mechanisms on a contour integration task requiring the linking of oriented Gabor elements across space to extract a winding 'path' or contour. We first establish that for all three mechanisms curvature and contrast are independent; losses in performance due to one cannot be compensated by changes in the other. We then compare contour integration by the three mechanisms using a method that controls for their differences in cone contrast thresholds. Our results show that despite the poor orientation discrimination thresholds and poor spatial sampling found for the blue-yellow mechanism, all three mechanisms perform similarly on contour integration over a wide range of curvatures. Furthermore, all three mechanisms have the same dependence on path curvature. We also investigate the effects of adding external orientation noise. Our results imply that the internal orientation noise for extracting 'aligned' path elements is similar in the three mechanisms and for all path curvatures, and the relative efficiencies are also similar for the three mechanisms. To account for our results, we propose that the three postreceptoral mechanisms use a common contour integration process. This linking process, however, cannot be color-blind; our last experiment shows that linking between different chromatic mechanisms or between opposite spatial phases disrupts contour integration. We thus propose that the common integration process remains sensitive to the color contrast and phase of its inputs. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.
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