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Chapter 6 The Visual System


Light: defined as waves of electromagnetic energy that are between 380 -- 760 nanometers in length. 380-760 is the only wave length that human visual systems respond to. Infrared waves: are too long for humans to see, but rattlesnakes can see them (heat)

2 important properties of light Wavelength: Plays in important role in perception of color Intensity: Plays an important role in the perception of brightness.

The Pupil and Lens

Iris: A donut-shaped bands of contractile tissue that gives our eyes their characteristic color and also regulates the amount of light reaching the Retina. Pupil: the hole in the iris where the light enters the eye. Pupil size is in response to changes in illumination represents a compromise between Sensitivity & Acuity Sensitivity: The ability to detect the presence of dimly lit objects Acuity: The ability to see the details of objects When level of illumination is high = sensitivity is not important = Constricts the pupil = the image falling on the retina is sharper and with a greater depth of focus High illumination = Sharper focus & Greater Depth of focus Low Illumination = Dilated pupils = lets in more light = focus and depth of focus decline Lens: located behind the pupil, it focuses light on the retina. Something near = lens shape is natural cylindrical in shape Something far = Lens flattens out

Accommodation: The adjustment of the configuration of the lens to bring images in focus on the retina

Ciliary Muscles: contracts and relaxes the tension on the ligaments attached to the lens Something near = lens assumes natural cylindrical shape = sharp focus This shape increases the lens ability to refract (bend) light and bring something near into focus

Eye Position & Binocular Disparity One reason why vertebrates have 2 eyes is that they have 2 sides. Allows vertibrates to seen in almost every direction without moving their heads. The reason why they are mounted forward is so that objects in front can be viewed through both eyes simultaneously, creating a 3D perception (depth) from 2D retinal images. Convergence: Movements of your eyes are coordinated so that each point is projected to corresponding points on both retinas. Convergence is greatest when things are close.

Binocular Disparity: the difference in the position of the same image on the 2 retinas. It is greater for close objects than for distant objects, therefore 2D retinal image + 2D retinal image = 3D perception

The Retina & Translation of Light into Neural Signals Retina: Converts light to neural signals, cunducts them to the CNS and participates in Processing the signals

The Retina is composed of 5 layers of different types of Neurons Receptors Horizontal Cells Bipolar Cells Amacrine Cells Retinal Ganglion Cells

Cellular structure of Retina Light >> Retinal Ganglion cells >> Amacrine Cells >> Bipolar Cells >> Horizontal cells >> Cone & rod receptors >> back of eye

Amacrine & Horizontal Cells: specialized for Lateral Communcation (communication across the major channels of sensory input) They communicate both Chemically & Electrically Chemically = synapses Electrically = Gap Junctions

Blind Spot: A gap in the receptor area that is so that the bundle of retinal ganglion cell axons can leave the eye Fovea: A indentation .33 cm in diameter at the retinas center for specialized high-acuity vision Completion: The filling in of visual information that is missing information in retinal images. Surface Interpolation: the process by which we perceive surfaces; the visual system extracts information about edges and from it infers the appearance of large surfaces.

Cones & Rods Duplexity theory: Theory that cones and rods mediate different kinds of vision

Photopic Vision: Cone Mediated vision-- Predominates in good lighting & provides High-acuity (detailed) colored perceptions of the world. In Photopic vision only a few cones converge on each retinal ganglion cell to receive input from only a few cones Scotopic Vision: Rod-mediated Vision -- Predominates in Dim illumination. Scotopic vision lacks both the detail & color of photopic vision. In scotopic vision the output of several hundred rods converge on a single retinal ganglion cell Convergent Scotopic System: Pys for its high degree of sensitivity with a low level of acuity.

Location of Rods & Cones There are no RODS in the Fovea only CONES The boundaries of the Fovea indentation has a decline in cones and increase in rods with a maximum rod density at 20 degrees from center of the fovea Photopic Spectral Sensitivity Curve: Determined by having people judge the relative brightness of different wavelengths of light shone on the fovea. Scotopic spectral sensitivity curve: Determined by having people judge the relative brightness of different wavelengths of light shone on the periphery fo the retina at an intensity too low to activate the few peripheral cones that are located there. Pukinje Effect: An interesting effect that occurs during the transition from photopic to scotopic vision. Fixational Eye Movement: Serve a critical function where in if we were to fixate perfectly our world would fade and disappear. Because visual neurons respond to change; if retinal images are artificially stabilized than an image would disappear. Eye movement however enables us to see during fixation by keeping the images moving on the retina 3 different kinds of involuntary movements: Tremor Drifts Saccades (jerky movements, or flicks) Transduction: The conversion of one form of energy to another Visual transduction: The conversion of light to neural signals by the visual receptors. Rhodopsin: A pigment extracted from Rods. It is a G-protein-coupled receptor that responds to light rather than to neurotransmitter mollecules. They innitiate a cascade of intracellular chemical events when they are activated. When RODS are in darkness, their SODIUM CHANNELS are partially open, thus keeping the rods slightly depolarized and allowing a steady flow of excitatory glutamate emanating from them When light is shone, The Rhodopsin is bleached and which CLOSES the SODIUM CHANNELS, hyperpolarizes the rods, reduces the release of Glutamate. Retina-Geniculate-Striate pathways: Largest visual pathways, which conduct signals from each retina to the Primary Visual Cortex or striate cortex via the Lateral Geniculate Nuclei of the Thalamus Retina >>>RGSP>>> LGN >>>RGSP>>> PVC Retinotopic: The retina-geniulate-striate system is retinotopic, which means each level of the system is organized like a map of the retina. The 2 stimuli presenented to adjacent areas of the retina excite adjacent neurons at levels of the system. The Fovea is a small part of the retina but a large proportion of the primary visual cortex (25%) is dedicated to Fovea input analysis.

The M & P Channels

Parvocellular layers: Channel of communication composed of neurons with small cell bodies and run through the top 4 layers lateral geniculate nucleus Responsive for Color, Fine Pattern details, and to stationary or slowly moving objects Cones provide the majority of its input Magnocellular Layers: Composed of neurons with large cell bodies Responsive to movements, Rods provide the majority of its input

Seeing Edges

Edge Perception Edges are the most informative feature of any visual display because They define the extent and position of the various objects in it The Visual system is good at edge perception.

A visual Edge is nothing: it is merely the pleace where 2 different areas of a visual image meet The perception of an edge is the perception of a contrast between two adjacent areas of the visual field Mach Bands: they enhance the contrast at each edge and make the edge easier to see Contrast Enhancement: generally unaware, every edge we look at is highlighted for us by the contrast enhancing mechanisms of our nervous system. Lateral Inhibitors: When a receptor fires, it inhibits its neighbors via the lateral neural networks. The inhibition produced by a receptor is greatest when the receptor is most intensely illuminated The Neural Basis of Contrast Enhancement: If the neuron is receiving as much stimulation as to the left of it and less inhibition from its right then it will fire more. When reversed the neuron fires less. Hubel & Wiesel's influential method: a technique for studying single neurons in the visual systems of laboratory animals (cats & monkeys) Receptive Field of a visual neuron is the area of the visual field within which it is possible for a visual stimulus to influence the firing of that neuron. They recorded the responses of single neurons to various stimuli within its receptive field in order to characterize the type of stimuli that most influence its activity

3 Levels of the Retina-geniculate-Striate system: 1. Retinal ganglion cells 2. Lateral Geniculate neurons 3. Striate neurons of lower layer IV

4 commonalities within the 3 receptive fields 1. At each level the receptive fields in the foveal area of the retina were smaller than those at the periphery 2. All the neurons had receptive fields that were circular 3. All the neurons were MONOCULAR 4. Many neurons at each of the three levels gad receptive fields that comprised an excitatory area & inhibitory area seperated by a CIRCULAR BOUNDARY Monocular: each neuron had a receptive filed in one eye but not the other. On-Center Cells: Respond to lights shone in the central region of their receptive fields with "on" firing and to lights shone in the periphery of their receptive fields with inhibtion, followed by "off" firing when the light is turned off. Off-Center Cells: opposite pattern. They respond with inhibitiion and "off" firing in response to lights in the center of their receptive fields and with "on" firing to lights in the periphery of their receptive fields Both respond best to contrast Spontaneous Activity: Most are continually active, even when there is no visual input

The receptive fields of most Primary Visual Cortex Neurons fall into 1 of 2 classes:

Simple Cells: lower layer IV neurons, divided into antagonistic "on" and "off"
regions and are thus unresponsive to diffuse light. They are MONOCULAR Difference is the borders between on & off regions of the cortical receptive fields of simple cells are straight lines rather than circles

Complex Cells: More numerous than simples cells but share

similarities: Have rectangular receptive fields (like simple cells), respond best to straight-line stimuli in a specific orientation Are unresponsive to diffuse light. Differ in 3 important ways 1. they have larger receptive fields 2. it is not possible to divide the receptive fields of complex cells into static on & off regions. It responds to a particular orientation regardless of its position within the receptive field. Meaning that a cell will respond continuously to it as it moves across the field 3. Many complex cells are BINOCULAR: responde to stimulation in either eye Ocular dominance: cells in one eye respond more robustly Retinal Disparity: when images are perceived slightly off creates DEPTH PERCEPTION

Columnar organization of Primary Visual Cortex Signals flow from: on-center & off-center cells in Lower layer IV >>> simpel cells >>> complex cells

Primary visual Cortex neurons are grouped in functional Vertical Columns


Black is experienced because of an absence of light White is experienced because of an equal proportion of a wide range of wavelengths presented at once Blue, green & yellow are the main Hues Component Theory (Trichromatic Theory): theory that there are 3 different kinds of color receptors (cones), each with a different spectral sensitivity, and the color of a particular stimulus is presumed to be encoded by the ration of activity in the 3 kinds of receptors. Opponent-Process Theory: Suggested that there are 2 different classes of cells in the visual system for encoding color and another class for encoding brightness. He hypothesized that each of the 3 classes of cells encoded 2 complementary color perceptions. 1 class: of color coding cells signaled red by changing its activity in one direction and signaled red's complementary color green by changing its activty in the other direction Another Class: Cells signal blue and its complement yellow

Complementary Colors: are pairs of colors that produce whit or gray when combined in equal measure (green & red light) Later found that both Opponent-Process and Component Theory Coexisted (A mixture of both) 3 different kinds of cones in the Retina (each with a different photopigment absorption spectrum) Short Wavelengths Medium Wavelengths Long Wavelengths Trichromats: Possessing 3 color vision photopigments (most primates are) Dichromats: Possessing 2 color vision photopigments. Do not have long wavelength sensitive photopigment (difficulty seeing light near the red end of the spectrum) Color Constancy: refers to the fact that the perceived color of an object is not a simple function of the wavelengths reflected by it.

Cortical mechanisms of Vision & Conscious Awareness

Visual Cortex is divided into 3 different types

Primary Visual Cortex: Area of the cortex that receives most input from the visual relay nuclei of the Thalamus (from the lateral-geniculate-nuclei) Located in posterior region for the OCCIPITAL LOBE, hidden by longitudinal fissure

Secondary Visual Cortex: Areas that receive most of their input from the primary visual cortex Located in 2 regions: In the Prestriate Cortex: band of tissue in the OCCIPITAL LOBE that surounds the primary visual cortex In the Inferotemporal Cortex: The Cortex of the inferior TEMPORAL LOBE Visual Association Cortex: Areas that receive iput from areas of secondary visual cortex as well as from the secondary areas of other sensory systems. Located in several parts of the cerebral cortex, but the larges area being the Posterior PARIETAL cortex

Dorsal & Ventral Streams Dorsal Stream: flows from the primary visual cortex to the dorsal prestriate cortex to the posterior parietal cortex Visual cortex neurons respond most robustly to Spatial Stimuli (indicating location of object) or (direction of movement) Ventral Stream: Flows from the primary visual cortex to the Inferotemporal Cortex Visual cortex neurons respond best to the characteristics of objects, such as Color & Shape

"where" versus "what" theory: Specific effects of damage to the Dorsal & Ventral streams produce specific responses Posterior Parietal Cortex often have difficulty reaching accurately for objects that they have no difficulty describing Inferotemporal Cortex DAMAGE: often have no difficulty reaching accurately for objects that they have difficulty describing "control of behavior" versus "conscious perception" theory

The function of the dorsal stream is to direct behavioral interactions with objects Damage to Dorsal stream may do poorly on tests of location and movement because these tests involve Performance measures The function of the Ventral Stream is to mediate the conscious perception of objects Damage to Ventral Streams may do poorly on test of visual recognition because those tests involve Verbal & thus Conscious awareness


Prosopagnosia: Visual agnosia for faces Agnosia: failure of recognition that is not attributable to a sensory deficit or to verbal or intellectual impairment Visual Agnosia: a specific agnosia for visual stimuli. See them but don't know what they are Akinetopsia: a deficiency in the ability to see movement progress in a normal smooth fashion