An electrophysiological index of perceptual goodness

Alexis D.J. Makin*, Damien Wright, Giulia Rampone, Letizia Palumbo, Martin Guest, Rhiannon Sheehan, Helen Cleaver, Marco Bertamini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


traditional line of work starting with the Gestalt school has shown that patterns vary in strength and salience; a difference in "Perceptual goodness." The Holographic weight of evidence model quantifies goodness of visual regularities. The key formula states that W = E/N, where E is number of holographic identities in a pattern and N is number of elements. We tested whether W predicts the amplitude of the neural response to regularity in an extrastriate symmetry-sensitive network. We recorded an Event Related Potential (ERP) generated by symmetry called the Sustained Posterior Negativity (SPN). First, we reanalyzed the published work and found that W explained most variance in SPN amplitude. Then in four new studies, we confirmed specific predictions of the holographic model regarding 1) the differential effects of numerosity on reflection and repetition, 2) the similarity between reflection and Glass patterns, 3) multiple symmetries, and 4) symmetry and anti-symmetry. In all cases, the holographic approach predicted SPN amplitude remarkably well; particularly in an early window around 300-400ms post stimulus onset. Although the holographic model was not conceived as a model of neural processing, it captures many details of the brain response to symmetry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4416-4434
Number of pages19
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 26 Dec 2016


  • Erps
  • Extrastriate cortex
  • Holographic model
  • Sustained posterior negativity
  • Symmetry


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