The processing of temporal modulation at different levels of retinal illuminance

Robert J. Snowden, Robert F. Hess, Sarah J. Waugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


How does our temporal vision change as the mean illuminance reduces? We have examined the processing of near-threshold temporal information for a range of illuminance values (2850 - 0.15 phot td). At high illuminance, the modulation transfer function can be shown to be mediated via three underlying temporal filters that vary in sensitivity with spatial frequency. As the mean illuminance decreases these channels appear to change their sensitivity. Even at the lowest (scotopic) illuminance levels we were able to find evidence for at least two channels mediating detection threshold. There are also changes in the tuning properties of these channels such that the processing of high temporal frequencies is differentially compromised, resulting in a reduction in the flicker fusion limit of each channel, and a shift in the peak of the band-pass channel. The slope of the fall-off in sensitivity at high temporal frequencies is unaffected by test spatial frequency at each illuminance level, suggesting its limiting factor is one that is insensitive to spatial frequency. We propose that the changes in the tuning of the temporal filters occur because of an early (e.g. photoreceptor) change in the response dynamics, or by interactions between photoreceptors, rather than changes at or beyond the level of the channel response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)775-789
Number of pages15
JournalVision Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 1995
Externally publishedYes


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