Stereoscopic depth processing in the visual cortex: a coarse-to-fine mechanism

Nat Neurosci. 2003 Jan;6(1):59-65. doi: 10.1038/nn986.


For binocular animals viewing a three-dimensional scene, the left and right eyes receive slightly different information, and the brain uses this 'binocular disparity' to interpret stereoscopic depth. An important theoretical conjecture in this mechanism is that coarse processing precedes and constrains finely detailed processing. We present three types of neurophysiological data from the cat's visual cortex that are consistent with a temporal coarse-to-fine tuning of disparity information. First, the disparity tuning of cortical cells generally sharpened during the time course of response. Second, cells responsive to large and small spatial scale had relatively shorter and longer temporal latencies, respectively. Third, cross-correlation analysis between simultaneously recorded pairs of cortical cells showed that connections between disparity-tuned neurons were generally stronger for coarse-to-fine processing than for fine-to-coarse processing. These results are consistent with theoretical and behavioral studies and suggest that rapid, coarse percepts are refined over time in stereoscopic depth perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Depth Perception / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*