Contrast sensitivity is fundamental to natural visual processing and an important tool for characterizing both visual function and clinical disorders. We simultaneously measured contrast sensitivity and neural contrast response functions and compared measurements in common laboratory conditions with naturalistic conditions. In typical experiments, a subject holds fixation and a stimulus is flashed on, whereas in natural vision, saccades bring stimuli into view. Motivated by our previous V1 findings, we tested the hypothesis that perceptual contrast sensitivity is lower in natural vision and that this effect is associated with corresponding changes in V1 activity. We found that contrast sensitivity and V1 activity are correlated and that the relationship is similar in laboratory and naturalistic paradigms. However, in the more natural situation, contrast sensitivity is reduced up to 25% compared with that in a standard fixation paradigm, particularly at lower spatial frequencies, and this effect correlates with significant reductions in V1 responses. Our data suggest that these reductions in natural vision result from fast adaptation on one fixation that lowers the response on a subsequent fixation. This is the first demonstration of rapid, natural-image adaptation that carries across saccades, a process that appears to constantly influence visual sensitivity in natural vision.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY Visual sensitivity and activity in brain area V1 were studied in a paradigm that included saccadic eye movements and natural visual input. V1 responses and contrast sensitivity were significantly reduced compared with results in common laboratory paradigms. The parallel neural and perceptual effects of eye movements and stimulus complexity appear to be due to a form of rapid adaptation that carries across saccades.
- contrast response
- primary visual cortex
- Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society
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