Interocular suppression and contrast gain control in human vision
The human visual system combines contrast information from the two eyes to produce a single cyclopean representation of the external world. This task requires both summation of congruent images and inhibition of incongruent images across the eyes. These processes were explored psychophysically using narrowband sinusoidal grating stimuli. Initial experiments focussed on binocular interactions within a single detecting mechanism, using contrast discrimination and contrast matching tasks. Consistent with previous findings, dichoptic presentation produced greater masking than monocular or binocular presentation. Four computational models were compared, two of which performed well on all data sets. Suppression between mechanisms was then investigated, using orthogonal and oblique stimuli. Two distinct suppressive pathways were identified, corresponding to monocular and dichoptic presentation. Both pathways impact prior to binocular summation of signals, and differ in their strengths, tuning, and response to adaptation, consistent with recent single-cell findings in cat. Strikingly, the magnitude of dichoptic masking was found to be spatiotemporally scale invariant, whereas monocular masking was dependent on stimulus speed. Interocular suppression was further explored using a novel manipulation, whereby stimuli were presented in dichoptic antiphase. Consistent with the predictions of a computational model, this produced weaker masking than in-phase presentation. This allowed the bandwidths of suppression to be measured without the complicating factor of additive combination of mask and test. Finally, contrast vision in strabismic amblyopia was investigated. Although amblyopes are generally believed to have impaired binocular vision, binocular summation was shown to be intact when stimuli were normalized for interocular sensitivity differences. An alternative account of amblyopia was developed, in which signals in the affected eye are subject to attenuation and additive noise prior to binocular combination.