Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark (FBL) is published by IMR Press from Volume 26 Issue 5 (2021). Previous articles were published by another publisher on a subscription basis, and they are hosted by IMR Press on imrpress.com as a courtesy and upon agreement with Frontiers in Bioscience.
In the visual cortex, information is transferred from one area to the next by means of feedforward connections. These connections shape the receptive field properties of neurons in subsequent visual areas. Horizontal and feedback connections modulate this neuronal activity, resulting in the phenomenon of contextual modulation. In area V1, where receptive field properties reflect only low level processing, contextual modulation can be observed that represents fully evaluated perceptual saliency of the features within the receptive field. Here, we discuss to what extent these modulations are related to high level visual processes like perceptual organization, attention and visual awareness. Contextual modulation appears to reflects a process very distinct from receptive field based processing. This process seems to integrate information from distant areas in visual cortex to neurophysiologically 'highlight' those neurons that represent image elements or features of objects that stand out perceptually. Moreover, similar modulations are observed in relation to whether objects are attended to or not. Finally, these modulations are only present when subjects are aware of the visual input.