October 24, 2020

Hallucination of moving objects revealed by a dynamic noise background

We show that on a dynamic noise background, the perceived disappearance location of a moving object is shifted in the direction of motion. This "twinkle goes" illusion has little dependence on the luminance- or chromaticity-based confusability of the object with the background, or on the amount of background motion energy in the same direction as the object motion. This suggests that the illusion is enabled by the dynamic noise masking the offset transients that otherwise accompany an object’s disappearance. While these results are consistent with an anticipatory process that pre-activates positions ahead of the object’s current position, additional findings suggest an alternative account: a continuation of attentional tracking after the object disappears. First, the shift was greatly reduced when attention was divided between two moving objects. Second, the illusion was associated with a prolonging of the perceived duration of the object, by an amount that matched the extent of extrapolation inferred from the effect of speed on the size of the illusion (~50 ms). While the anticipatory extrapolation theory does not predict this, the continuation of attentional tracking theory does. Specifically, we propose that in the absence of offset transients, attentional tracking keeps moving for several tens of milliseconds after the target disappearance, and this causes one to hallucinate a moving object at the position of attention.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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