Top 100 papers in Vision Science

This list is based on: I tried to weed out all review papers. Papers in the list have been ranked based on the number of times the paper was cited as given by Google Scholar, Scopus, and Web of Science databases as of January 2007. Google Scholar and Scopus numbers agree well, while Web of Science numbers are quite different. Apparently, the former two are biased toward more recent papers available online. Therefore, the highest of the two citation numbers (Google Scholar and Web of Science) determined the paper rank. I feel that the ranking provides a somewhat objective justification for the choice of the "most important" papers. As an alternative to the number of citations I also included the "Subjective score", i.e. how many popular textbooks on Sensation and Perception from the following list: cited a given article.

Disclaimer: The choice of the data sources reflects my personal opinion. Because the ISI database goes back to 1970 (although Web of Science claims "SCI-expanded" coverage back to 1900 now), the citation figures for older papers are likely to be underestimated. Ranking used here should be treated as a guide to the eye only. No comparison of the scientific merit of the included papers was intended.

Email your suggestions to yury@neu.edu.

The article list

Rank Article Subjective score1 Number of citations2
Google ScholarWeb of Science
1 Hubel, D. H., Wiesel, T. N. (1962)
Receptive fields, binocular interaction and functional architecture in the cat's visual cortex. J. Physiol. Lond. 160: 106-154.
*******24424858
2 Treisman, A. M., & Gelade, G. (1980)
A feature integration theory of attention. Cognitive Psychology, 12, 97-136.
****18832518
3 Hubel, D. H., Wiesel, T. N. (1968)
Receptive fields and functional architecture of monkey striate cortex. J. Physiol. Lond. 195: 215-243.
*****10662315
4 Posner, M. I. (1980)
Orienting of attention. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 32, 3-25.
***12991908
5 Marr, D. & Hildreth, E. (1980)
Theory of edge detection. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 207B, 187-217.
**17021535
6 Enroth-Cugell, C and Robson, J. G. (1966)
The contrast sensitivity of retinal ganglion cells of the cat. J Physiol., 187(3): 517-552.
**6111621
7 Hubel, D. H. and Wiesel, T. N. (1965)
Receptive fields and functional architecture in two nonstriate visual areas (18 and 19) of the cat. J Neurophysiol, 28, 229-289.
*4611497
8 Felleman, D.J., Van Essen, D.C. (1991)
Distributed hierarchical processing in the primate cerebral cortex. Cerebral Cortex, 1(1): 1-47.
*****1481
9 Gray, C. M., Konig, P., Engel, A. K., and Singer, W. (1989)
Oscillatory responses in cat visual cortex exhibit inter-columnar synchronization which reflects global stimulus properties. Nature, 338, 334-337.
*12321451
10 Shepard, R. N., & Metzler, J. (1971)
Mental rotation of three-dimensional objects. Science, 171(3972): 701-703.
*8311372
11 Hubel, D. H. and Wiesel, T. N. (1970)
The period of susceptibility to the physiological effects of unilateral eye closure in kittens. J Physiol, 206(2):419-436.
4951359
12 Campbell FW, Robson JG. (1968)
Application of Fourier analysis to the visibility of gratings. J Physiol 197(3):551-66.
*******5711338
13 Biederman, I. (1987)
Recognition-by-components: A theory of human image understanding. Psychological Review, 94, 115-147.
******13041310
14 Wong-Riley, M. T. T. (1979)
Changes in the visual system of monocularly sutured or enucleated cats demonstrable with cytochrome oxidase histochemistry. Brain Res. 171: 11-28.
**6051261
15 Kuffler, S.W. (1953)
Discharge patterns and functional organization of mammalian retina. Journal of Neurophysiology, 16, 37-68.
*******4241248
16 Livingstone, M.S., Hubel, D.H. (1988)
Segregation of form, color, movement, and depth: anatomy, physiology, and perception. Science, 240(4853): 740-749.
*****8881169
17 Adelson E. H. & Bergen, J. R. (1985)
Spatio-temporal energy models for the perception of motion. Journal of the Optical Society of America A, 2, 284-299.
****11481140
18 Blakemore, C. and Campbell, F. W. (1969)
On the existence of neurones in the human visual system selectively sensitive to the orientation and size of retinal images. J Physiol., 203(1): 237-260.
******3611137
19 Wiesel, T. N. and Hubel, D. H. (1963)
Single cell responses in striate cortex of kittens deprived of vision in one eye. J Neurophysiol, 26, 1003-1017.
**4161089
20 Kanwisher, N., McDermott, J., Chun, M.M. (1997)
The fusiform face area: A module in human extrastriate cortex specialized for face perception. Journal of Neuroscience, 17(11): 4302-4311.
****10721032
21 Hubel, D. H. and Wiesel, T. N. (1959)
Receptive fields of single neurones in the cat's striate cortex. J Physiol, 148, 574-591.
***4701062
22 Eckhorn, et al. (1988)
Coherent oscillations: a mechanism of feature linking in the visual cortex? Biological Cybernetics, 60(2): 121-130.
6121045
23 Duncan, J., Humphreys, G. W. (1989)
Visual search and stimulus similarity. Psychol Rev, 96(3): 433-58.
*658988
24 Goodale, M. A., & Milner, A. D. (1992)
Separate visual pathways for perception and action. Trends in Neurosciences, 15, 20-25.
***962933
25 Nathans, J., Thomas, D., and Hogness, D. S. (1986)
Molecular genetics of human color vision: the genes encoding blue, green, and red pigments. Science, 232(4747): 193 - 202.
***409955
26 Koenderink, J.J. (1984)
The structure of images. Biological Cybernetics, 50(5): 363-370.
918571
27 Moran, J., & Desimone, R. (1985)
Selective attention gates visual processing in the extrastriate cortex. Science, 229(4715): 782-784.
***738892
28 Corbetta, M. et al. (1991)
Selective and divided attention during visual discriminations of shape, color, and speed: Functional anatomy by positron emission tomography. Journal of Neuroscience, 11(8): 2383-2402.
**684873
29 Barlow HB, Blakemore C, Pettigrew JD. (1967)
The neural mechanism of binocular depth discrimination. J Physiol, 193(2):327-42.
******342857
30 Navon, D. (1977)
Forest before trees: The precedence of global features in visual perception. Cognitive Psychology, 9, 353-383.
*476851
31 Olshausen, B. A. and Field, D. J. (1996)
Emergence of simple-cell receptive field properties by learning a sparse code for natural images. Nature, 381: 607-609.
842441
32 Livingstone, M.S., Hubel, D.H. (1984)
Anatomy and physiology of a color system in the primate visual cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 4(1): 309-356.
***413823
33 Treisman, A., Gormican, S. (1988)
Feature analysis in early vision: evidence from search asymmetries. Psychological review, 95(1): 15-48. Cited 542 times.
*478812
34 Belliveau, J. W., Kennedy, D. N., and McKinstry, R. C. (1991)
Functional mapping of the human visual cortex by magnetic resonance imaging. Science, 254(5032): 716 - 719.
*596810
35 Hubel, D. H. and Wiesel, T. N. (1977)
Plasticity of ocular dominance columns in monkey striate cortex. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 278(961): 377-409.
**379807
36 Gray, C. M. and Singer, W. (1989)
Stimulus-specific neuronal oscillations in orientation columns of cat visual cortex. PNAS, 86(5): 1698-1702.
***685788
37 Daugman J. G. (1985)
Uncertainty relation for resolution in space, spatial frequency, and orientation optimized by two-dimensional visual cortical filters. J. Opt. Soc. Am. A, 2(7): 1160-1169.
777530
38 Itti, L., Koch, C., and Niebur, E. (1998)
A model of saliency-based visual attention for rapid scene analysis. IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence 20(11):1254-1259.
773256
39 Mishkin, M., Ungerleider, L. G., & Macko, K. A. (1983)
Object vision and spatial vision: Two cortical pathways. Trends in Neurosciences, 6, 414-417.
***568746
40 Field D. J. (1987)
Relations between the statistics of natural images and the response properties of cortical cells. J. Opt. Soc. Am. A, 4, 2379-2394.
*741528
41 D. Marr, T. Poggio (1979)
A Computational Theory of Human Stereo Vision. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 204(1156): 301-328.
***455741
42 Zeki, S. et al. (1991)
A direct demonstration of functional specialization in human visual cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 11(3): 641-649.
*539736
43 Barlow, H. B. and Levick, W. R. (1965)
The mechanism of directionally selective units in the rabbit's retina. J. Physiol. 178: 477-504.
*322724
44 Sereno, M. I. et al. (1995)
Borders of multiple visual areas in humans revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging. Science, 268(5212), 889-893.
638688
45 Marr, D., & Nishihara, H. K. (1978)
Representation and recognition of the spatial organization of three-dimensional shapes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 200, 269-294.
***551682
46 Maunsell, J.H.R., Van Essen, D.C. (1983)
Functional properties of neurons in middle temporal visual area of the macaque monkey. I. Selectivity for stimulus direction, speed, and orientation. Journal of Neurophysiology, 49(5): 1127-1147.
*433664
47 Gross, C. G., Rocha-Miranda, C. E., and Bender, D. B. (1972)
Visual properties of neurons in inferotemporal cortex of the Macaque. J Neurophysiol 35, 96-111.
****348658
48 Johansson, G. (1973)
Visual perception of biological motion and a model for its analysis. Perception & Psychophysics, 14, 201-211.
****611638
49 Smith, V.C., Pokorny, J. (1975)
Spectral sensitivity of the foveal cone photopigments between 400 and 500 nm. Vision Research, 15(2): 161-171.
*363636
50 Rensink, R.A., O'Regan, J.K., Clark, J.J. (1997)
To see or not to see: The Need for Attention to Perceive Changes in Scenes. Psychological Science, 8(5): 368-373.
*****537635
51 Watson, J. D. G. (1993)
Area V5 of the Human Brain: Evidence from a Combined Study Using Positron Emission Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Cerebral Cortex, 3, 79-94.
497635
52 Thorpe, S., Fize, D., and Marlot, C. (1996)
Speed of processing in the human visual system. Nature, 381, 520-522.
635438
53 Bienenstock, E. L., Cooper, L. N., and Monro, P. W. (1982)
Theory for the development of neuron selectivity: orientation specificity and binocular interaction in visual cortex. J Neuroscience 2, 32-48.
578623
54 Bell, A.J., Sejnowski, T.J. (1997)
The 'independent components' of natural scenes are edge filters. Vision Research, 37(23): 3327-3338.
623323
55 Boynton, G. M., Engel, S. A., Glover, G. H., and Heeger D. J. (1996)
Linear Systems Analysis of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Human V1. J. Neurosci. 16: 4207-4221.
599556
56 Wolfe, J.M., Cave, K.R., Franzel, S.L. (1989)
Guided search: an alternative to the feature integration model for visual search. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 15(3): 419-433.
*403597
57 DeValois, R.L., Albrecht, D.G., Thorell, L.G. (1982)
Spatial frequency selectivity of cells in macaque visual cortex. Vision Research, 22(5): 545-559.
***406576
58 Julesz, B. (1981)
Textons, the elements of texture perception, and their interactions. Nature, 290: 91-97.
*370569
59 Koch, C. and Ullman, S. (1985)
Shifts in selective visual attention: towards the underlying neural circuitry. Hum Neurobiol, 4(4): 219-227.
568422
60 Sperling, G. (1960).
The information available in brief visual presentations. Psychological Monographs, 74, 1-29.
557348
61 Derrington, A. M., and Krauskopf, J., and Lennie, P. (1984)
Chromatic mechanisms in lateral geniculate nucleus of macaque. J Physiol, 357(1): 241-265.
***379553
62 Watson, A. B. and Ahumada A. J. (1985)
Model of human visual-motion sensing. J Opt Soc Am A, 2(2): 322-341.
*439550
63 Newsome, W.T., Pare, E.B. (1988)
A selective impairment of motion perception following lesions of the middle temporal visual area (MT). Journal of Neuroscience, 8(6): 2201-2211.
*****361542
64 Eriksen, C.W., St James, J.D. (1986)
Visual attention within and around the field of focal attention: a zoom lens model. Perception and Psychophysics, 40(4): 225-240.
*332534
65 Desimone, R., Albright, T. D., Gross, C. G. and Bruce, C. (1984)
Stimulus-selective properties of inferior temporal neurons in the macaque. J. Neurosci. 4: 2051-2062.
*347525
66 Tootell, R.B.H. et al. (1995)
Functional analysis of human MT and related visual cortical areas using magnetic resonance imaging. Journal of Neuroscience, 15(4): 3215-3230.
*472516
67 Field D. J. (1994)
What is the goal of sensory coding? Neural Computation, 6(4): 559-601.
*502282
68 Chelazzi, L., Miller, E. K., Duncan, J., and Desimone, R. (1993)
A neural basis for visual search in inferior temporal cortex. Nature 363, 345-347.
495349
69 Movshon, J.A., Adelson, E.H., Gizzi, M.S., and Newsome, W.T. (1985)
The analysis of moving visual patterns. Study Week on Pattern Recognition Mechanisms (pp. 117-151) Pontificia Scademia Scientiarvm, V, Eds: Carlos Chagas, Ricardo Gattass, and Charles Gross, Rome: Vatican Press.
***491
70 Adelson, E. H., & Movshon, J. A. (1982)
Phenomenal coherence of moving visual patterns. Nature, 300, 523-525.
***350480
71 Meister, M., Wong R. O., Baylor, D.A., and Shatz C.J. (1991)
Synchronous bursts of action potentials in ganglion cells of the developing mammalian retina. Science, 252(5008): 939-943.
349478
72 Marr, D., & Poggio, T. (1976)
Cooperative computation of stereo disparity. Science, 194(4262): 283-287.
**419476
73 Field, D.J., Hayes, A., Hess, R.F. (1993)
Contour integration by the human visual system: Evidence for a local 'association field'. Vision Research, 33(2): 173-193.
****440447
74 Heinze, H. J. et al. (1994)
Combined spatial and temporal imaging of brain activity during visual selective attention in humans. Nature, 372(6506): 543-546.
400434
75 Heeger, D. J. (1992)
Normalization of cell responses in cat striate cortex. Vis. Neurosci., 9(2): 181-197.
**433418
76 Luck, S. J., Chelazzi, L., Hillyard, S. A., and Desimone, R. (1997)
Neural Mechanisms of Spatial Selective Attention in Areas V1, V2, and V4 of Macaque Visual Cortex. J Neurophysiol, 77(1): 24-42.
*421400
77 Britten, K. H., Shadlen, M. N., Newsome, W. T., and Movshon, J. A. (1992)
The analysis of visual motion: a comparison of neuronal and psychophysical performance. J Neuroscience, 12, 4745-4765.
*398415
78 Treue, S. and Maunsell, J. H. R. (1996)
Attentional modulation of visual motion processing in cortical areas MT and MST. Nature, 382: 539-541.
*406343
79 Knierim, J.J., Van Essen, D.C. (1992)
Neuronal responses to static texture patterns in area V1 of the alert macaque monkey. Journal of Neurophysiology, 67(4): 961-980.
334404
80 Barlow, H. B. (1972)
Single units and sensation: A neuron doctrine for perceptual psychology? Perception, 1, 371-394.
*****398
81 Jones, J. P. and Palmer, L. A. (1987)
An evaluation of the two-dimensional Gabor filter model of simple receptive fields in cat striate cortex. J Neurophysiol, 58(6) 1233-1258.
393280
82 Olshausen, B. A. and Field, D. J. (1997).
Sparse coding with an overcomplete basis set: A strategy employed by V1? Vision Research, 37, 3311-3325.
381183
83 Corbetta, M. et al. (1998)
A common network of functional areas for attention and eye movements. Neuron, 21(4): 761-773.
375357
84 Malik, J. and Perona, P. (1990)
Preattentive texture discrimination with early vision mechanisms. J Opt Soc Am A, 7, 923-932.
*371331
85 Fries, P., Reynolds, J. H., Rorie, A. E., and Desimone, R. (2001)
Modulation of Oscillatory Neuronal Synchronization by Selective Visual Attention. Science, 291(5508): 1560 - 1563.
371272
86 Malach, R. et al. (1995)
Object-related activity revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging in human occipital cortex. PNAS, 92: 8135-8139.
356370
87 Kapadia, M.K., Ito, M., Gilbert, C.D., Westheimer, G. (1995)
Improvement in visual sensitivity by changes in local context: Parallel studies in human observers and in V1 of alert monkeys. Neuron, 15(4): 843-856.
*359332
88 DeYoe E. A. et al. (1996) Mapping striate and extrastriate visual areas in human cerebral cortex. PNAS, 93, 2382-2386.356341
89 Kastner, S. et al. (1999)
Increased activity in human visual cortex during directed attention in the absence of visual stimulation. Neuron, 22(4): 751-761.
356308
90 Leopold, D. A. and Logothetis, N. K. (1996)
Activity changes in early visual cortex reflect monkeys' percepts during binocular rivalry. Nature, 379: 549-553.
**334247
91 Hopfinger, J.B., Buonocore, M.H., Mangun, G.R. (2000)
The neural mechanisms of top-down attentional control. Nature Neuroscience, 3(3): 284-291.
**332331
92 Engel, S. A., Glover, G. H., and Wandell, B. A. (1997)
Retinotopic organization in human visual cortex and the spatial precision of functional MRI. Cerebral Cortex, 7, 181-192.
*332292
93 Atick, J. J. (1992)
Could information theory provide an ecological theory of sensory processing? Network: Comp. in Neural Sys., 3(2): 213-251.
329188
94 Daugman, J. G. (1980)
Two-dimensional spectral analysis of cortical receptive field profiles. Vision Res, 20(10): 847-856
*325274
95 Olshausen, B. A. et al., Anderson, C. H., and Van Essen, D. C. (1993)
A neurobiological model of visual attention and invariant pattern recognition based on dynamic routing of information. J Neuroscience, 13, 4700-4719.
325229
96 Reichardt, W. (1961)
Autocorrelation, a principle for the evaluation of sensory information by the central nervous system. In W. A. Rosenblith (Ed.), Sensory Communication, 303-317. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
*****321
97 Ullman, S. (1984)
Visual Routines. Cognition, 18, 97-159.
*321284
98 Maloney, L. T. and Wandell, B. A. (1986)
Color constancy: a method for recovering surface spectral reflectance. J Opt Soc Am A, 3(1): 29-33.
*318265
99 van Hateren, J. H. (1998)
Independent component filters of natural images compared with simple cells in primary visual cortex. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 265(1394): 359-366.
315176
100 Gottlieb, J., Kusunoki, M. and Goldberg, M. E. (1998)
The representation of visual salience in monkey parietal cortex. Nature 391: 481-484.
308265


1 Based on citations in popular undergraduate textbooks (see above).
2 as of 01/2007.