Binocular interactions in human vision
Early visual processing is subject to binocular interactions because cells in striate cortex show binocular responses and ocular dominance (Hubel & Weisel, 1968). The work presented in this thesis suggests that these physiological interactions can be revealed in psychophysical experiments using normal human observers. In the region corresponding to the blind spot, where binocular interactions differ from areas of the visual field which are represented by two eyes, monocular contrast sensitivity is increased. This finding can be partially explained by an absence of normal binocular interactions in this location (Chapter 2). A hemianopic patient was studied in an attempt to discover whether the effect in normal observers was mediated by either a mechanism in striate cortex or via a subcortical pathway. However, the results were unable to distinguish between these two explanations (Chapter 3).In a visual search task, no difference in reaction time was observed for targets presented to the region corresponding to the blind spot compared with targets presented to adjacent binocularly represented areas of the visual field. Since performance was unaffected by the monocularity of the region corresponding to the blind, pop-out for orientation may be mediated beyond striate cortex where cells are binocularly balanced (Chapter 5). Further support for this contention was provided by studies of orientation pop-out in central vision which found that dichoptic presentation of stimuli did not affect the degree of pop-out obtained and that in general, visual search for a target based solely on eye of origin is impossible (Chapter 6). However, a task that measured orientation difference sensitivity more directly than the search experiments, found that thresholds were higher for dichoptically presented stimuli. This suggests the involvement of neurons that receive a weighted input from each eye. A model of orientation difference coding can account for the results by assuming that the range of inhibition across which orientation differences are coded is narrower for dichoptic stimuli leading to a greater resolvable orientation difference (Chapter 7).