Interactive non-linear cooperation of different feature dimensions, feature synergy, has been studied in psychophysics, but the neural mechanism is unknown. The present study investigated the neural representation of feature synergy of two second-order visual features by combining electroencephalography (EEG) with the signal detection theory (SDT). Two kinds of a 27-by-27 array of Gabor patches were presented in a random order; a reference stimulus which has no segregated region, and a target stimulus whose inner region differed in spatial frequency, orientation, or both from the surround. Subjects performed a Yes-No discrimination of whether the inner region was different from the surround, while EEG signals were recorded from 62 locations. When the SDT measure showed feature synergy, EEG activity showed a long-lasting enhancement starting at 130. ms around the inferior temporal region. In contrast, no EEG modulation was observed when feature synergy was not present. Thus, our combined approach demonstrates that non-linear cooperation between different features is represented by neural activity starting at 130. ms post-stimulus in the ventral visual stream.
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