Sensitivity to naturalistic texture relies primarily on high spatial frequencies

Justin D. Lieber, Gerick M. Lee, Najib J. Majaj, J. Anthony Movshon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Natural images contain information at multiple spatial scales. Though we understand how early visual mechanisms split multiscale images into distinct spatial frequency channels, we do not know how the outputs of these channels are processed further by mid-level visual mechanisms.We have recently developed a texture discrimination task that uses synthetic, multi-scale, “naturalistic” textures to isolate these mid-level mechanisms. Here, we use three experimental manipulations (image blur, image rescaling, and eccentric viewing) to show that perceptual sensitivity to naturalistic structure is strongly dependent on features at high object spatial frequencies (measured in cycles/image). As a result, sensitivity depends on a texture acuity limit, a property of the visual system that sets the highest retinal spatial frequency (measured in cycles/degree) at which observers can detect naturalistic features. Analysis of the texture images using a model observer analysis shows that naturalistic image features at high object spatial frequencies carry more task-relevant information than those at low object spatial frequencies. That is, the dependence of sensitivity on high object spatial frequencies is a property of the texture images, rather than a property of the visual system. Accordingly, we find human observers’ ability to extract naturalistic information (their efficiency) is similar for all object spatial frequencies.We conclude that the mid-level mechanisms that underlie perceptual sensitivity effectively extract information from all image features below the texture acuity limit, regardless of their retinal and object spatial frequency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • image statistics
  • texture perception
  • visual psychophisics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Ophthalmology

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