Performance for a variety of visual tasks improves with practice. The purpose of this study was to determine the nature of the processes underlying perceptual learning of identifying letters in peripheral vision. To do so, we tracked changes in contrast thresholds for identifying single letters presented at 10° in the inferior visual field, over a period of six consecutive days. The letters (26 lowercase Times-Roman letters, subtending 1.7°) were embedded within static two-dimensional Gaussian luminance noise, with rms contrast ranging from 0% (no noise) to 20%. We also measured the observers’ response consistency using a double-pass method on days 1, 3 and 6, by testing two additional blocks on each of these days at luminance noise of 3% and 20%. These additional blocks were the exact replicates of the corresponding block at the same noise contrast that was tested on the same day. We analyzed our results using both the linear amplifier model (LAM) and the perceptual template model (PTM). Our results showed that following six days of training, the overall reduction (improvement across all noise levels) in contrast threshold for our seven observers averaged 21.6% (range: 17.2–31%). Despite fundamental differences between LAM and PTM, both models show that learning leads to an improvement of the perceptual template (filter) such that the template is more capable of extracting the crucial information from the signal. Results from both the PTM analysis and the double-pass experiment imply that the stimulus-dependent component of the internal noise does not change with learning.
Perceptual learning; Training; Letter identification; Peripheral vision
We assessed whether or not the sensitivity for identifying luminance-defined and contrast-defined letters improved with training in a group of amblyopic observers who have passed the critical period of development. In Experiment 1, we tracked the contrast threshold for identifying luminance-defined letters with training in a group of 11 amblyopic observers. Following training, six observers showed a reduction in thresholds, averaging 20%, for identifying luminance-defined letters. This improvement transferred extremely well to the untrained task of identifying contrast-defined letters (average improvement = 38%) but did not transfer to an acuity measurement. Seven of the 11 observers were subsequently trained on identifying contrast-defined letters in Experiment 2. Following training, five of these seven observers demonstrated a further improvement, averaging 17%, for identifying contrast-defined letters. This improvement did not transfer to the untrained task of identifying luminance-defined letters. Our findings are consistent with predictions based on the locus of learning for first- and second-order stimuli according to the filter-rectifier-filter model for second-order visual processing.
Amblyopia; Perceptual learning; Training; First-order; Second-order; Letter recognition
Crowding, the difficulty in identifying a letter embedded in other letters, has been suggested as an explanation for slow reading in peripheral vision. In this study, we asked whether crowding in peripheral vision can be reduced through training on identifying crowded letters, and if so, whether these changes will lead to improved peripheral reading speed. We measured the spatial extent of crowding, and reading speeds for a range of print sizes at 10° inferior visual field before and after training. Following training, averaged letter identification performance improved by 88% at the trained (the closest) letter separation. The improvement transferred to other untrained separations such that the spatial extent of crowding decreased by 38%. However, averaged maximum reading speed improved by a mere 7.2%. These findings demonstrated that crowding in peripheral vision could be reduced through training. Unfortunately, the reduction in the crowding effect did not lead to improved peripheral reading speed.
crowding; perceptual learning; training; reading
Amblyopes show specific deficits in processing second-order spatial
information (e.g. Wong, Levi, & McGraw
(2001). Is second-order spatial loss in amblyopia explained by the
loss of first-order spatial input? Vision Research, 41,
2951–2960). Recent work suggests there is a significant degree of
plasticity in the visual pathway that processes first-order spatial information
in adults with amblyopia. In this study, we asked whether or not there is
similar plasticity in the ability to process second-order spatial information in
adults with amblyopia. Ten adult observers with amblyopia (five strabismic, four
anisometropic and one mixed) were trained to identify contrast-defined
(second-order) letters using their amblyopic eyes. Before and after training, we
determined observers’ contrast thresholds for identifying
luminance-defined (first-order) and contrast-defined letters, separately for the
non-amblyopic and amblyopic eyes. Following training, eight of the 10 observers
showed a significant reduction in contrast thresholds for identifying
contrast-defined letters with the amblyopic eye. Five of these observers also
showed a partial transfer of improvement to their fellow untrained non-amblyopic
eye for identifying contrast-defined letters. There was a small but
statistically significant transfer to the untrained task of identifying
luminance-defined letters in the same trained eye. Similar to first-order
spatial tasks, adults with amblyopia benefit from perceptual learning for
identifying contrast-defined letters in their amblyopic eyes, suggesting a
sizeable degree of plasticity in the visual pathway for processing second-order
Amblyopia; Letter recognition; Perceptual learning; Second-order
Performance for discriminating single mirror -image letters in peripheral vision can be as good as that in central vision, provided that letter size is scaled appropriately (Higgins, Arditi & Knoblauch, 1996 Vision Research). In this study, we asked whether or not there is a reduction in performance for discriminating mirror -image letters when the letters are flanked closely by other letters, compared with unflanked (single) letters; and if so, whether or not this effect is greater in peripheral than in central vision. We compared contrast thresholds for detecting and identifying mirror -image letters “b” and “d” for a range of letter separations, at the fovea and 10° eccentricity, for letters that were scaled in size. For comparison, thresholds were also determined for a pair of non - mirror-image letters “o” and “x”. Our principal finding is that there is an additional loss in sensitivity for identifying mirror -image letters (“bd”), compared with non - mirror-image letters (“ox”), when the letters are flanked closely by other letters. The effect is greater in peripheral than central vision. An auxiliary experiment comparing thresholds for letters “d” and “q” vs. “b” and “d” shows that the additional loss in sensitivity for identifying crowded mirror -image letters cannot be attributed to the similarity in letter features between the two letters, but instead, is specific to the axis of symmetry. Our results suggest that in the presence of proximal objects, there is a specific loss in sensitivity for processing broad -band left-right mirror images in peripheral vision.
Crowding; letter identification; mirror images
Evidence that the detection of first- and second-order visual stimuli is processed by separate pathways abounds. This study asked whether first- and second-order stimuli remain independent at the stage of processing where crowding occurs. We measured thresholds for identifying a first-order (luminance defined) or second-order (contrast defined) target letter in the presence of two second- or first-order flanking letters. For comparison, we also measured thresholds when the target and flanking letters were all first or second order. Contrast of the flankers was 1.6 times their respective contrast thresholds. Measurements were obtained at the fovea and 10° in the lower visual field of four normally sighted observers. Two observers were also tested at 10° nasal visual field. As expected, in both the fovea and periphery, the magnitude of crowding (threshold elevation) was maximal at the closest letter separation and decreased as letter separation increased. The magnitude of crowding was greater for second- than for first-order target letters, independent of the order type of flankers; however, the critical distance for crowding was similar for first- and second-order letters. Substantial crossover crowding occurred when the target and flanking letters were of different order type. Our finding of substantial interaction between first- and second-order stimuli suggests that the processing of these stimuli is not independent at the stage of processing at which crowding occurs.
crowding; first order; second order; peripheral vision; letter identification
Amblyopia is a developmental abnormality that results in deficits for a wide range of visual tasks, most notably, the reduced ability to see fine details, the loss in contrast sensitivity especially for small objects and the difficulty in seeing objects in clutter (crowding). The primary goal of this study was to evaluate whether crowding can be ameliorated in adults with amblyopia through perceptual learning using a flanked letter identification task that was designed to reduce crowding, and if so, whether the improvements transfer to untrained visual functions: visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and the size of visual span (the amount of information obtained in one fixation). To evaluate whether the improvements following this training task were specific to training with flankers, we also trained another group of adult observers with amblyopia using a single letter identification task that was designed to improve letter contrast sensitivity, not crowding. Following 10,000 trials of training, both groups of observers showed improvements in the respective training task. The improvements generalized to improved visual acuity, letter contrast sensitivity, size of the visual span, and reduced crowding. The magnitude of the improvement for each of these measurements was similar in the two training groups. Perceptual learning regimens aimed at reducing crowding or improving letter contrast sensitivity are both effective in improving visual acuity, contrast sensitivity for near-acuity objects and reducing the crowding effect, and could be useful as a clinical treatment for amblyopia.
Objects in natural scenes are spatially broadband; in contrast, feature detectors in the early stages of visual processing are narrowly tuned in spatial frequency. Earlier studies of feature integration using gratings suggested that integration across spatial frequencies is suboptimal. Here we re-examined this conclusion using a letter identification task at the fovea and at 10 deg in the lower visual field. We found that integration across narrow-band (1-octave) spatial frequency components of letter stimuli is optimal in the fovea. Surprisingly, this optimality is preserved in the periphery, even though feature integration is known to be deficient in the periphery from studies of other form-vision tasks such as crowding. A model that is otherwise a white-noise ideal observer except for a limited spatial resolution defined by the human contrast sensitivity function and using internal templates slightly wider in bandwidth than the stimuli is able to account for the human data. Our findings suggest that deficiency in feature integration found in peripheral vision is not across spatial frequencies.
spatial frequency channels; summation; letter identification; fovea; periphery
Visual-span profiles are plots of letter-recognition accuracy as a function of letter position left or right of the midline. Previously, we have shown that contraction of these profiles in peripheral vision can account for slow reading speed in peripheral vision. In this study, we asked two questions: (1) can we modify visual-span profiles through training on letter-recognition, and if so, (2) are these changes accompanied by changes in reading speed? Eighteen normally sighted observers were randomly assigned to one of three groups: training at 10° in the upper visual field, training at 10° in the lower visual field and a no-training control group. We compared observers’ characteristics of reading (maximum reading speed and critical print size) and visual-span profiles (peak amplitude and bits of information transmitted) before and after training, and at trained and untrained retinal locations (10° upper and lower visual fields). Reading speeds were measured for six print sizes at each retinal location, using the rapid serial visual presentation paradigm. Visual-span profiles were measured using a trigram letter-recognition task, for a letter size equivalent to 1.4 × the critical print size for reading. Training consisted of the repeated measurement of 20 visual-span profiles (over four consecutive days) in either the upper or lower visual field. We also tracked the changes in performance in a sub-group of observers for up to three months following training. We found that the visual-span profiles can be expanded (bits of information transmitted increased by 6 bits) through training with a letter-recognition task, and that there is an accompanying increase (41%) in the maximum reading speed. These improvements transferred, to a large extent, from the trained to an untrained retinal location, and were retained, to a large extent, for at least three months following training. Our results are consistent with the view that the visual span is a bottleneck on reading speed, but a bottleneck that can be increased with practice.
Reading; Letter-recognition; Peripheral vision; Perceptual learning; Low vision; Visual rehabilitation
This fMRI study investigated top-down letter processing with an illusory letter detection task. Participants responded whether one of a number of different possible letters was present in a very noisy image. After initial training that became increasingly difficult, they continued to detect letters even though the images consisted of pure noise, which eliminated contamination from strong bottom-up input. For illusory letter detection, greater fMRI activation was observed in several cortical regions. These regions included the precuneus, an area generally involved in top-down processing of objects, and the left superior parietal lobule, an area previously identified with the processing of valid letter and word stimuli. In addition, top-down letter detection also activated the left inferior frontal gyrus, an area that may be involved in the integration of general top-down processing and letter-specific bottom-up processing. These findings suggest that these regions may play a significant role in top-down as well as bottom up processing of letters and words, and are likely to have reciprocal functional connections to more posterior regions in the word and letter processing network.
word processing; letter processing; top-down processing; fMRI
The Gestalt psychologists reported a set of laws describing how vision groups elements to recognize objects. The Gestalt laws “prescribe for us what we are to recognize ‘as one thing’” (Köhler, 1920). Were they right? Does object recognition involve grouping? Tests of the laws of grouping have been favourable, but mostly assessed only detection, not identification, of the compound object. The grouping of elements seen in the detection experiments with lattices and “snakes in the grass” is compelling, but falls far short of the vivid everyday experience of recognizing a familiar, meaningful, named thing, which mediates the ordinary identification of an object. Thus, after nearly a century, there is hardly any evidence that grouping plays a role in ordinary object recognition. To assess grouping in object recognition, we made letters out of grating patches and measured threshold contrast for identifying these letters in visual noise as a function of perturbation of grating orientation, phase, and offset. We define a new measure, “wiggle”, to characterize the degree to which these various perturbations violate the Gestalt law of good continuation. We find that efficiency for letter identification is inversely proportional to wiggle and is wholly determined by wiggle, independent of how the wiggle was produced. Thus the effects of three different kinds of shape perturbation on letter identifiability are predicted by a single measure of goodness of continuation. This shows that letter identification obeys the Gestalt law of good continuation and may be the first confirmation of the original Gestalt claim that object recognition involves grouping.
Gestalt; Grouping; Contour integration; Good continuation; Letter identification; Object recognition; Features; Snake in the grass; Snake letters; Dot lattice
The Gestalt psychologists reported a set of laws describing how vision groups elements to recognize objects. The Gestalt laws “prescribe for us what we are to recognize ‘as one thing’.” (Köhler, 1920). Were they right? Does object recognition involve grouping? Tests of the laws of grouping have been favorable, but mostly assessed only detection, not identification, of the compound object. The grouping of elements seen in the detection experiments with lattices and ‘snakes in the grass’ is compelling, but falls far short of the vivid everyday experience of recognizing a familiar, meaningful, named thing, which mediates the ordinary identification of an object. Thus, after nearly a century, there is hardly any evidence that grouping plays a role in ordinary object recognition. To assess grouping in object recognition, we made letters out of grating patches and measured threshold contrast for identifying these letters in visual noise as a function of perturbation of grating orientation, phase, and offset. We define a new measure, “wiggle,” to characterize the degree to which these various perturbations violate the Gestalt law of good continuation. We find that efficiency for letter identification is inversely proportional to wiggle, and is wholly determined by wiggle, independent of how the wiggle was produced. Thus the effects of three different kinds of shape perturbation on letter identifiability are predicted by a single measure of goodness of continuation. This shows that letter identification obeys the Gestalt law of good continuation, and may be the first confirmation of the original Gestalt claim that object recognition involves grouping.
Gestalt; grouping; contour integration; good continuation; letter identification; object recognition; features; snake in the grass; snake letters; dot lattice
Letter-by-letter readers identify each letter of the word they are reading serially in left to right order before recognizing the word. When their letter naming is also impaired, letter-by-letter reading is inaccurate and can render even single word reading very poor. Tactile and/or kinesthetic strategies have been reported to improve reading in these patients, but only under certain conditions or for a limited set of stimuli.
The primary aim of the current study was to determine whether a tactile/kinesthetic treatment could significantly improve reading specifically under normal reading conditions, i.e. reading untrained words presented in free vision and read without overt use of the strategy.
Methods & Procedures
Three chronic letter-by-letter readers participated in a tactile/kinesthetic treatment aimed at first improving letter naming accuracy (phase 1) and then letter-by-letter reading speed (phase 2). In a multiple case series design, accuracy and speed of reading untrained words without overt use of the trained tactile/kinesthetic strategy was assessed before phase 1, after phase 1 and again after phase 2.
Outcomes & Results
All three patients significantly improved both their speed and accuracy reading untrained words without overt use of the trained tactile/kinesthetic strategy. All three patients required the additional practice in phase 2 to achieve significant improvement. Treatment did not target sentence level reading, yet two of the three patients became so adept that they could read entire sentences.
This study replicates previous findings on the efficacy of tactile/kinesthetic treatment for letter-by-letter readers with poor letter naming. It further demonstrates that this treatment can alter cognitive processing such that words never specifically trained can be read in free vision without overtly using the trained strategy. The data suggest that an important element in achieving this level of generalization is continuing training beyond the point of initial mastery (i.e. accurate letter naming).
aphasia; cognitive rehabilitation; Speech-Language Pathology; pure alexia; letter-by-letter reading; generalization
We report three behavioral experiments on the spatial characteristics evoking illusory face and letter detection. False detections made to pure noise images were analyzed using a modified reverse correlation method in which hundreds of observers rated a modest number of noise images (480) during a single session. This method was originally developed for brain imaging research, and has been used in a number of fMRI publications, but this is the first report of the behavioral classification images. In Experiment 1 illusory face detection occurred in response to scattered dark patches throughout the images, with a bias to the left visual field. This occurred despite the use of a fixation cross and expectations that faces would be centered. In contrast, illusory letter detection (Experiment 2) occurred in response to centrally positioned dark patches. Experiment 3 included an oval in all displays to spatially constrain illusory face detection. With the addition of this oval the classification image revealed an eyes/nose/mouth pattern. These results suggest that face detection is triggered by a minimal face-like pattern even when these features are not centered in visual focus.
vision; face perception; reverse correlation; letter perception; top down; false detection
Letters are broad-band visual stimuli with information useful for discrimination over a wide range of spatial frequencies. Yet, recent evidence suggests that observers use only a single, fixed spatial-frequency channel to identify letters, and that the scale of that channel, in units of letter size, is determined by the size of the letter (scale dependence). We report two letter-identification experiments using critical-band masking. With sufficiently high-amplitude, low- or high-pass masking noise, observers switched to a different range of spatial frequencies for the task. Thus, letter channels are not fixed for a given letter size. When an additional white-noise masker was added to the stimulus to flatten the contrast-sensitivity function, the letter channel used by the observer still depended on letter size, further supporting the hypothesis that letter identification is scale dependent.
letter identification; letter channels; critical-band masking; scale invariance; channel switching; equivalent input noise; ideal observer
In human and non-human primates, higher form vision matures substantially later than spatial acuity and contrast sensitivity, as revealed by performance on such tasks as figure-ground segregation and contour integration. Our goal was to understand whether delayed maturation on these tasks was intrinsically form-dependent or, rather, related to the nature of spatial integration necessary for extracting task-relevant cues. We used an intermediate-level form task that did not call for extensive spatial integration. We trained monkeys (6–201 weeks) to discriminate the orientation of pattern modulation in a two-alternative forced choice paradigm. We presented two families of form patterns, defined by texture or contrast variations, and luminance-defined patterns for comparison. Infant monkeys could discriminate texture- and contrast-defined form as early as 6 weeks; sensitivity improved up to 40 weeks. Surprisingly, sensitivity for texture- and contrast-defined form matured earlier than for luminance-defined form. These results suggest that intermediate-level form vision develops in concert with basic spatial vision rather than following sequentially. Comparison with earlier results reveals that different aspects of form vision develop over different time courses, with processes that depend on comparing local image content maturing earlier than those requiring “global” linking of multiple visual elements across a larger spatial extent.
visual development; form vision; texture sensitivity; first-order; second-order; contrast sensitivity; macaque
There is considerable evidence for the existence of a specialized mechanism in human vision for detecting moving contrast modulations and some evidence for a mechanism for detecting moving stereoscopic depth modulations. It is unclear whether a single second-order motion mechanism detects both types of stimulus or whether they are detected separately. We show that sensitivity to stereo-defined motion resembles that to contrast-defined motion in two important ways. First, when a missing-fundamental disparity waveform is moved in steps of 0.25 cycles, its perceived direction tends to reverse. This is a property of both luminance-defined and contrast-defined motion and is consistent with independent detection of motion at different spatial scales. Second, thresholds for detecting the direction of a smoothly drifting sinusoidal disparity modulation are much higher than those for detecting its orientation. This is a property of contrast-modulated gratings but not luminance-modulated gratings, for which the two thresholds are normally identical. The results suggest that stereo-defined and contrast-defined motion stimuli are detected either by a common mechanism or by separate mechanisms sharing a common principle of operation.
Crowding refers to the increased diffculty in identifying a letter flanked by other letters. The purpose of this study was to determine if the peak sensitivity of the human visual system shifts to a different spatial frequency when identifying crowded letters, compared with single letters. We measured contrast thresholds for identifying the middle target letters in trigrams, for a range of spatial frequencies, letter separations and letter sizes, at the fovea and 5° eccentricity. Plots of contrast sensitivity vs. letter frequency exhibit spatial tuning, for all letter sizes and letter separations tested. The peak tuning frequency grows as the 0.6–0.7 power of the letter size, independent of letter separation. At the smallest letter separation, peak tuning frequency occurs at a frequency that is 0.17 octaves higher for flanked than for unflanked letters at the fovea, and 0.19 octaves at 5° eccentricity. This finding suggests that the human visual system shifts its sensitivity toward a higher spatial-frequency channel when identifying letters in the presence of nearby letters. However, the size of the shift is insuffcient to account for the large effect of crowding in the periphery.
Crowding; Letter identification; Spatial frequency channel; Spatial scale shift
The purpose of this study was to define the quantitative relationship between the temporal characteristics of additive luminance noise and the properties of the spatial contrast sensitivity function (CSF). CSFs were obtained from two observers using Gabor patch targets of short duration that were added to white luminance noise with a range of root-mean-square contrasts (crms). The noise was either dynamic or static and was either of the same duration as the test target (synchronous) or of longer duration (asynchronous). For targets presented in asynchronous dynamic, synchronous dynamic, and synchronous static noise, the CSFs became increasingly band-pass with increasing crms, whereas the CSFs were low-pass at all levels of crms for targets presented in asynchronous static noise. For all noise types, the properties of the CSFs were well-predicted by the linear amplifier model (LAM), in which the signal energy at threshold (Et) is related linearly to noise spectral density (N). The fundamentally different characteristics of CSFs obtained in asynchronous static noise can be accounted for by a previous proposal that this noise type biases contrast sensitivity toward transient (inferred magnocellular) mechanisms. The other three modes of noise presentation appear to emphasize detection by sustained (inferred parvocellular) mechanisms.
contrast sensitivity; spatial vision; visual noise; sustained/transient; magnocellular/parvocellular
Using the external noise plus training paradigm, we have consistently found that two independent mechanisms, stimulus enhancement and external noise exclusion, support perceptual learning in a range of tasks. Here, we show that re-weighting of stable early sensory representations through Hebbian learning (Petrov et al., 2005, 2006) can generate performance patterns that parallel a large range of empirical data: (1) perceptual learning reduced contrast thresholds at all levels of external noise in peripheral orientation identification (Dosher & Lu, 1998, 1999), (2) training with low noise exemplars transferred to performance in high noise, while training with exemplars embedded in high external noise transferred little to performance in low noise (Dosher & Lu, 2005), and (3) pre-training in high external noise only reduced subsequent learning in high external noise, whereas pre-training in zero external noise left very little additional learning in all the external noise conditions (Lu et al., 2006). In the augmented Hebbian re-weighting model (AHRM), perceptual learning strengthens or maintains the connections between the most closely tuned visual channels and a learned categorization structure, while it prunes or reduces inputs from task-irrelevant channels. Reducing the weights on irrelevant channels reduces the contributions of external noise and additive internal noise. Manifestation of stimulus enhancement or external noise exclusion depends on the initial state of internal noise and connection weights in the beginning of a learning task. Both mechanisms reflect re-weighting of stable early sensory representations.
Re-weighting; Hebbian learning; Stimulus enhancement; External noise exclusion; Mechanisms of perceptual learning
To test whether first- and second-order stimuli are processed independently in amblyopic vision, we measured thresholds for identifying a target letter flanked by two letters for all combinations of first- and second-order targets and flankers. We found that (1) the magnitude of crowding is greater for second- than for first-order letters for target and flankers of the same order type; (2) substantial but asymmetric cross-over crowding occurs such that stronger crowding is found for a second-order letter flanked by first-order letters than for the converse; (3) the spatial extent of crowding is independent of the order type of the letters. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that crowding results from an abnormal integration of target and flankers beyond the stage of feature detection, which takes place over a large distance in amblyopic vision.
amblyopia; crowding; first order; second order; letter identification
In the present study, we examined whether perceptual learning methods can be used to improve performance of older individuals. Subjects performed a texture discrimination task in the peripheral visual field and a letter discrimination task in central vision. The SOA threshold was derived by presenting a mask following the stimuli. Older subjects (age greater than 65 years) were either trained for 2 days using near threshold stimuli (experimental group) or were trained with the task with supra-threshold stimuli (older control group). The experimental group showed significant improvement in the task as a result of training whereas the older control group showed no significant improvement. The improved performance post-training equaled that of a younger control group and was maintained for at least 3 months. The results of two additional experiments indicate that the improved performance was not due to changes in divided attention, that the effect of perceptual learning was location specific, and that the pattern of learning was similar to that of younger subjects. These results indicate that perceptual learning with near threshold training can be used to improve visual performance among older individuals, that the improvements are not the result of practice with the visual task, and that the improvements do not transfer to non-trained locations.
perceptual learning; aging; improved visual performance
Accurate reading of words and text relies on reliable identification of letters in left to right order. Previous studies have shown that people often make letter-reversal errors when identifying strings of letters away from fixation. These errors contribute to a decline in letter identification performance away from fixation. This study tests the hypothesis that these errors are due to decreased precision (increased position noise) in the coding of letter position in the periphery. To test our hypothesis, we measured observers' performance for identifying pairs of adjacent letters presented within 8 letter positions left and right of fixation. The task was to name the two letters of each pair, from left to right. Responses were scored in two ways for each letter position: (1) letters were identified correctly and in the correct position, and (2) letters were identified correctly but in the wrong position. The ratio of these two scores, when subtracted from 1, gives the empirical rate of mislocation errors. Our primary finding shows that the coding of letter position becomes increasingly imprecise with distance from fixation. A model in which the encoded position of each letter is independent and Gaussian distributed, and in which the spread of the distribution governs the precision of localizing the letter accounts for the empirical rate of mislocation errors. We also found that precision of letter position coding scales with letter size but the precision does not improve with the use of a pre-cue.
Local signs; letter reversals; letter mislocations; crowding; letter identification; pattern vision
The authors previously reported a general technique based on contrast-detail methods to provide an overall quantitative evaluation of electronic image display quality. The figure-of-merit reflecting overall display quality is called maximum threshold contrast or MTC. In this work we have optimized the MTC technique through improvements in both the test images and the figure-of-merit computation. The test images were altered to match the average luminance with that observed for clinical computed radiographic images. The figure-of-merit calculation was altered to allow for contrast-detail data with slopes not equal to −1. Preliminary experiments also were conducted to demonstrate the response of the MTC measurements to increased noise in the displayed image. MTC measurements were obtained from five observers using the improved test images displayed with maximum monitor luminance settings of 30-, 50-, and 70-ft-Lamberts. Similar measurements were obtained from two observers using test images altered by the addition of a low level of image noise. The noise-free MTC and MTC difference measurements exhibited standard deviations of 0.77 and 1.55, respectively. This indicates good measurement precision, comparable or superior to that observed using the earlier MTC technique. No statistically significant image quality differences versus maximum monitor luminance were seen. The noise-added MTC measurements were greater than the noise-free values by an average of 4.08 pixel values, and this difference was statistically significant. This response is qualitatively correct, and is judged to indicate good sensitivity of the MTC measurement to increased noise levels.
contrast-detail experiments; electronic image display; image quality evaluation
The visual recognition of letters dissociates from the recognition of numbers at both the behavioral and neural level. In this article, using fMRI, we investigate whether the visual recognition of numbers dissociates from letters, thereby establishing a double dissociation. In Experiment 1, participants viewed strings of consonants and Arabic numerals. We found that letters activated the left midfusiform and inferior temporal gyri more than numbers, replicating previous studies, whereas numbers activated a right lateral occipital area more than letters at the group level. Because the distinction between letters and numbers is culturally defined and relatively arbitrary, this double dissociation provides some of the strongest evidence to date that a neural dissociation can emerge as a result of experience. We then investigated a potential source of the observed neural dissociation. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that lateralization of visual number recognition depends on lateralization of higher-order numerical processing. In Experiment 2, the same participants performed addition, subtraction, and counting on arrays of nonsymbolic stimuli varying in numerosity, which produced neural activity in and around the intraparietal sulcus, a region associated with higher-order numerical processing. We found that individual differences in the lateralization of number activity in visual cortex could be explained by individual differences in the lateralization of numerical processing in parietal cortex, suggesting a functional relationship between the two regions. Together, these results demonstrate a neural double dissociation between letter and number recognition and suggest that higher-level numerical processing in parietal cortex may influence the neural organization of number processing in visual cortex.