The stimulus integration area for horizontal vergence
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Over what region of space are horizontal disparities integrated to form the stimulus for vergence? The vergence system might be expected to respond to disparities within a small area of interest to bring them into the range of precise stereoscopic processing. However, the literature suggests that disparities are integrated over a fairly large parafoveal area. We report the results of six experiments designed to explore the spatial characteristics of the stimulus for vergence. Binocular eye movements were recorded using magnetic search coils. Each dichoptic display consisted of a central target stimulus that the subject attempted to fuse, and a competing stimulus with conflicting disparity. In some conditions the target was stationary, providing a fixation stimulus. In other conditions, the disparity of the target changed to provide a vergence-tracking stimulus. The target and competing stimulus were combined in a variety of conditions including those in which (1) a transparent textured-disc target was superimposed on a competing textured background, (2) a textured-disc target filled the centre of a competing annular background, and (3) a small target was presented within the centre of a competing annular background of various inner diameters. In some conditions the target and competing stimulus were separated in stereoscopic depth. The results are consistent with a disparity integration area with a diameter of about 5 degrees. Stimuli beyond this integration area can drive vergence in their own right, but they do not appear to be summed or averaged with a central stimulus to form a combined disparity signal. A competing stimulus had less effect on vergence when separated from the target by a disparity pedestal. As a result, we propose that it may be more useful to think in terms of an integration volume for vergence rather than a two-dimensional retinal integration area.
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