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Journal of the Optical Society of America

Journal of the Optical Society of America

  • Vol. 71, Iss. 11 — Nov. 1, 1981
  • pp: 1335–1342

Contrast gain measurements and the transient/sustained dichotomy

Christina A. Burbeck and D. H. Kelly  »View Author Affiliations

JOSA, Vol. 71, Issue 11, pp. 1335-1342 (1981)

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We measure threshold for a vertical test grating superimposed on a fixed-contrast horizontal background grating of the same spatial and temporal frequency. The rate of change of this threshold with increasing contrast of the background grating is a measure of the contrast gain of the responding mechanism. Large slopes (high contrast gains) occur when spatial frequency is low and temporal frequency is high; small slopes (low contrast gains) occur when both spatial and temporal frequencies are low and when spatial frequency is high. This division of the spatiotemporal frequency domain into low- and high-gain regions is consistent with the transient/sustained dichotomy found in previous psychophysical studies. Furthermore, our results suggest that the mechanism responsible for detecting low spatial frequencies has a gain characteristic similar to that of cat retina Y cells and that the mechanism responsible for detecting high spatial frequencies has a gain characteristic similar to that of cat retina X cells, as found by Shapley and Victor (J. PhysioL (London) 285, 275–298 (1978)].

© 1981 Optical Society of America

Christina A. Burbeck and D. H. Kelly, "Contrast gain measurements and the transient/sustained dichotomy," J. Opt. Soc. Am. 71, 1335-1342 (1981)

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  1. C. Enroth-Cugell and J. G. Robson, "The contrast sensitivity of retinal ganglion cells of the cat," J. Physiol. (London) 187, 517–552 (1966).
  2. As defined in the physiological literature, the X-Y dichotomy is not synonymous with the transient/sustained dichotomy [see, for example, S. Hochstein and R. M. Shapley, "Quantitative analysis of retinal ganglion cell classifications," J. Physiol. (London) 262, 237–264 (1976)]. However, psychophysical studies of such dichotomies are by no means sufficiently refined to make this subtle distinction. Consequently, we will assume that all such psychophysical studies are exploring a single dichotomy.
  3. J. J. Kulikowski, "Some stimulus parameters affecting spatial and temporal resolution of human vision," Vision Res. 11, 83–90 (1971).
  4. J. J. Kulikowski and D. J. Tolhurst, "Psychophysical evidence for sustained and transient detectors in human vision," J. Physiol. (London) 232, 149–162 (1973).
  5. B. G. Breitmeyer, "Simple reaction time as a measure of the temporal response properties of transient and sustained channels," Vision Res. 15, 1411–1412 (1975).
  6. R. S. Harwerth and D. M. Levi, "Reaction time as a measure of suprathreshold grating detection," Vision Res. 18, 1579–1586 (1978).
  7. A. Vassilev and D. Mitov, "Perception time and spatial frequency," Vision Res. 16, 89–92 (1976).
  8. U. Lupp, G. Hauske, and W. Wolf, "Perceptual latencies to sinusoidal gratings," Vision Res. 16, 969–972 (1976).
  9. D. J. Tolhurst, "Reaction times to the detection of gratings by human observers: a probabilistic mechanism," Vision Res. 15, 1143–1149 (1975).
  10. P. E. King-Smith and J. J. Kulikowski, "Pattern and flicker detection analysed by subthreshold summation," J. Physiol. (London) 249, 519–548 (1975).
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  12. R. M. Shapley and J. D. Victor, "The effect of contrast on the transfer properties of cat retinal ganglion cells," J. Physiol. (London) 285, 275–298 (1978).
  13. It could be that the contrast gain of a single physiological mechanism varies with the spatial frequency of the stimulus.
  14. F. W. Campbell and J. J. Kulikowski, "Orientational selectivity of the human visual system," J. Physiol. (London) 187, 437–445 (1966).
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  17. J. J. Kulikowski, R. Abadi, and P. E. King-Smith, "Orientation selectivity of grating and line detectors in human vision," Vision Res. 13, 1479–1486 (1973).
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  20. D. H. Hubel and T. N. Wiesel, "Receptive fields and functional architecture in two nonstriate visual areas (18 and 19) of the cat," J. Neurophysiol. 28, 229–289 (1965).
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  22. F. W. Campbell, G. F. Cooper, and C. Enroth-Cugell, "The spatial selectivity of the visual cells of the cat," J. Physiol. (London) 203, 223–235 (1969).
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  24. This software-oriented apparatus for visual psychophysics was developed at SRI International by D. H. Kelly and his collaborators starting in 1978. A more detailed description of the system is in preparation.
  25. For a discussion of this issue, see J. Nachmias and R. V. Sansbury, "Grating contrast: Discrimination may be better than detection," Vision Res. 14, 1039–1042 (1974).
  26. To eliminate some of the effects of noise, only those contrasts larger than the largest one that failed to elevate the threshold were used in our calculations.
  27. G. E. Legge, "Sustained and transient mechanisms in human vision: Temporal and spatial properties," Vision Res. 18, 69–81 (1978).
  28. This is clearly not true for spatial frequencies, which range about 10 times lower in the cat than in man [see, for example, F. W. Campbell, L. Maffei, and M. Piccolino, "The contrast sensitivity of the cat," J. Physiol. (London) 229, 719–731 (1973)]. However, there is considerable reason to assume that temporal properties (e.g., neural time constants) are more similar than spatial properties for various mammalian species.
  29. This result does not necessarily imply that the Y system is responsible for the detection of the low spatial-frequency components of a complex visual scene.
  30. J. J. Kulikowski and A. Gorea, "Complete adaptation to patterned stimuli: a necessary and sufficient condition for Weber's law for contrast," Vision Res. 18, 1223–1227 (1978).
  31. I. Bodis-Wollner and C. D. Hendley, "On the separability of two mechanisms involved in the detection of grating patterns in humans," J. Physiol. (London) 291, 251–263 (1979).

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