Jan 08, 2019 8
Contrast sensitivity reveals an oculomotor strategy for temporally encoding space.
The contrast sensitivity function (CSF), how sensitivity varies with the frequency of the stimulus, is a fundamental assessment of visual performance. The CSF is generally assumed to be determined by low-level sensory processes. However, the spatial sensitivities of neurons in the early visual pathways, as measured in experiments with immobilized eyes, diverge from psychophysical CSF measurements in primates. Under natural viewing conditions, as in typical psychophysical measurements, humans continually move their eyes even when looking at a fixed point. Here, we show that the resulting transformation of the spatial scene into temporal modulations on the retina constitutes a processing stage that reconciles human CSF and the response characteristics of retinal ganglion cells under a broad range of conditions. Our findings suggest a fundamental integration between perception and action: eye movements work synergistically with the spatio-temporal sensitivities of retinal neurons to encode spatial information.