When a visual image consists of a figure against a background, V1 cells are physiologically observed to give higher responses to image regions corresponding to the figure relative to their responses to the background. The medial axis of the figure also induces rela(cid:173) tively higher responses compared to responses to other locations in the figure (except for the boundary between the figure and the background). Since the receptive fields of V1 cells are very smal(cid:173) l compared with the global scale of the figure-ground and medial axis effects, it has been suggested that these effects may be caused by feedback from higher visual areas. I show how these effects can be accounted for by V1 mechanisms when the size of the figure is small or is of a certain scale. They are a manifestation of the processes of pre-attentive segmentation which detect and highlight the boundaries between homogeneous image regions.