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Is 20/20 vision good enough? Visual acuity differences within the normal range predict contour element detection and integration

Author(s): Keane, Brian P.; Kastner, Sabine; Paterno, Danielle; Silverstein, Steven M.

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Abstract: Contour integration (CI) combines appropriately aligned and oriented elements into continuous boundaries. Collinear facilitation (CF) occurs when a low-contrast oriented element becomes more visible when flanked by collinear high-contrast elements. Both processes rely at least partly on long-range horizontal connections in early visual cortex, and thus both have been extensively studied to understand visual cortical functioning in aging, development, and clinical disorders. Here, we ask: Can acuity differences within the normal range predict CI or CF? To consider this question, we measured binocular visual acuity and compared subjects with 20/20 vision to those with better-than-20/20 vision (SharpPerceivers) on two tasks. In the CI task, subjects located an integrated shape embedded in varying amounts of noise; in the CF task, subjects detected a lowcontrast element flanked by collinear or orthogonal high-contrast elements. In each case, displays were scaled in size to modulate element visibility and spatial frequency (4-12 cycles/deg). SharpPerceivers could integrate contours under noisier conditions than the 20/20 group (p=.0002) especially for high spatial frequency displays. Moreover, although the two groups exhibited similar collinear facilitation, SharpPerceivers could detect the central target with lower contrast at high spatial frequencies (p<.05). These results suggest that small acuity differences within the normal range—corresponding to about a one line difference on a vision chart—strongly predict element detection and integration. Furthermore, simply ensuring that subjects have normal or corrected-to-normal vision is not sufficient when comparing groups on contour tasks; visual acuity confounds also need to be ruled out.
Publication Date: Feb-2015
Electronic Publication Date: 21-May-2014
Citation: Keane, Brian P, Kastner, Sabine, Paterno, Danielle, Silverstein, Steven M. (2015). Is 20/20 vision good enough? Visual acuity differences within the normal range predict contour element detection and integration. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22 (1), 121 - 127. doi:10.3758/s13423-014-0647-9
DOI: doi:10.3758/s13423-014-0647-9
ISSN: 1069-9384
EISSN: 1531-5320
Pages: 121 - 127
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Psychonomic Bulletin & Review
Version: Author's manuscript

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