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Professor Ratliff has written an interesting, thorough, and scholarly monograph about a fundamental visual sensory phenomenon—the brightness contrast effect, the so-called Mach Bands. This effect consists of bright and dark bands that appear at the transition between a more brightly and a less brightly illuminated surface. The bands are apparent to the observer only under certain conditions. Ernst Mach (1838-1916) first described this phenomenon. He was a versatile genius who in his psychophysical studies recognized the significance of inhibitory interaction phenomena in the nervous system, and, in particular, in the retina. The brightness contrast effect, which is best explained by inhibitory interaction in the retina, serves to enhance the appearance of borders and of contours and to compensate for blurring of the retinal image by imperfections in the dioptric apparatus of the eye. It probably also plays a role in the generation of specialized patterns of optic nerve activity in
Jampel RS. Mach Bands, Quantitative Studies on Neural Networks in the Retina. Arch Neurol. 1966;14(1):117–118. doi:10.1001/archneur.1966.00470070121025
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